Every year, half a million people visit Percé, Que. — a town on the eastern edge of the Gaspé Peninsula — to go whale watching in Forillon National Park, swim in Rivière-aux-Émeraudes or soak in the saltwater spray from the beach and boardwalk facing the town's namesake: a massive pierced rock sitting in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
Town manager Jean-François Kacou says it costs Percé a lot of money to maintain its tourist offerings and infrastructure while also developing new attractions. Rather than further taxing its residents, the municipality has decided to pass on some of that cost to visitors.
"At the end of the day, we have 3,500 citizens that are carrying the Percé rock on their back," said Kacou.
"That's why we've come up with this solution that we think is fair and reasonable for citizens and also tourists," he said.
The new regulation, set to be approved at a council meeting on Sept. 28, will be enforced by local merchants and come into effect at the beginning of May, 2022. Restaurants, tourist attractions and souvenir shops will add a $1 fee for non-residents to every transaction over $10 and hotel stays for tourists will cost an additional $1 per night.
Provincially and federally regulated items like tobacco, alcohol, cannabis and gas will be exempt from the added fees. Kacou says Percé hopes to bring in an additional $1.5 million in revenue every year.
"When you see our budget it's very difficult to reach the end...without taxing residents," he said.
"Basically we're charging visitors because we have a tremendous amount of infrastructure...maintenance costs and operation expenses."
Local hotel owner Jean-François Gagné says he would have preferred a formal tax, similar to what's in place in destinations like Mont-Tremblant, but says he's on board with the idea overall.
Gagné owns Auberge au Pic de l'Aurore, on the Gaspé's main highway, and he's confident the one dollar increase won't drive anyone away.
"The thing about tourist attractions … you must improve every year, people are expecting more," he said.
"It's not something that will make you decide not to come to Percé.… and we'll have more to offer them with the help of that dollar."
Kacou agrees and says the new policy is about creating a relationship of reciprocity between Percé and those who love to visit.
"You love us? We love you too, but we want to give you new services and improve the quality of your visit."