The garden side of COVID and tourism

COVID-19 has not been jojo for everyone. […] But, at least in downtown Quebec, the great containment had its good sides. Have you noticed the silence in the streets and in the sky. No more planes going around in circles. Almost no more cars clogging the streets. Suddenly you hear the rustle of the wind in the trees, the air has cleared, the song of birds has invaded the space and it seems that the water of Venice has become translucent. Two meters apart! It is not serious ; since there are no cars, trucks, or motorcycles, you can hear yourself talking, not just two meters away, but also across the streets and avenues. The commercial streets of Saint-Jean, Saint-Joseph, Saint-Vallier Ouest, Cartier and the 3e Avenue have become as calm and pleasant as our residential streets.

And, another novelty, the tourists stayed at home. The Airbnb have been abandoned and we no longer have to endure the din of rolling suitcases in the streets of the neighborhoods. […] What calm, what comfort, that pure oxygen in the lungs and, as a bonus, the buses are free.

When you wander the streets of Old Quebec, you see, surprisingly, that real residents live and walk there. For the first time in more than 40 years, I have even been able to see the inside of houses and have seen children playing on the street. It looked like a resumption of the miracle of Fatima.

In the Petit-Champlain district, usually invaded to the point of suffocation by hordes of lost cruise passengers and distant lonely commuters, I came across (at a distance of two meters, of course) some nice residents whom I didn’t know until existence before the pandemic. Life seemed to have returned to the neighborhoods “from which we were driven out” and nature in the middle of the city seemed to have taken over.

Tourism industry

What struck me during this period of change when I surveyed the city center a lot was the stifling grip that the tourism industry has had for a long time over Quebec, but also on a global scale, and the effect of this industry on greenhouse gas emissions.

It was the tourism industry which, during the period of Urban Renovation (1965-1980), took over the intramural district of Quebec, which caused it to lose its name (Latin Quarter), its schools, its university and a large part of its residents, especially families with children.

It is the tourism industry, with the support of governments, which drove the residents of the Notre-Dame-des-Victoires parish to demolish the district and replace it with false old ones, which made Place Royale a species of artificial Disneyland marketed.

It is the tourism industry that brings us these masses who visit an object city rather than a living city, which circulate in red double-decker buses, which roam the Louis-Jolliet, who eat at McDonald’s and who arrive to us via these polluting links such as the plane, cruise ships or the highway. Kept away from a local population that the tourism industry has driven from the picturesque places of Quebec, the masses of tourists swoon with admiration before a cement wall: the Fresco of Quebecers, on the coast of the Mountain.

Craft tourism is opposed to industrial tourism. Before 1965, the city lived at the rate of an artisanal tourism which was addressed to the travelers rather than to mass tourism. The traveler, unlike the tourist, learns the language of the country he is visiting, seeks to meet the people of the city he visits and wants to participate in the social and cultural life of the neighborhoods he visits.

We should gradually be able to return to artisanal tourism in downtown Quebec. This year, there will be no summer festival, no Hilton hotel, no cruise ships, and no change of guard in big beard-hats at the Citadel. Thousands of guests of the multinational tourism company Airbnb will abandon the rental service because of COVID-19. Airbnb is a rental service which tends to market the residential function of urban areas.

Why not take advantage of the tourist break due to the pandemic to gradually repopulate the districts of Old Quebec, Place Royale, Petit-Champlain, with a family-type population and services adapted to the needs of this population? One day, it will be necessary to do the same thing with the Citadel, to make it a residential district without automobile traffic. And to ensure that the traveling tourist can circulate in all of the suburbs and popular neighborhoods of Quebec, not just downtown.

Attention, the calm due to the pandemic is on the eve of being delighted. Noise pollution returned first with the hellish noise of motorcycles. And gradually motorists come out of containment. In recent weeks, noise pollution has been accompanied by an intensification of air pollution. Help ! Are we going to return to the desolate situation before the epidemic, to the invasion of tourism in our most beautiful areas as if we were afraid of change?

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