Immerse yourself in the captivating evolution of Quebec agritourism from the humble beginnings of farm lodges in the 1970s to the diversification of the offer in the 1990s, to finally become an essential trend in gourmet tourism over the last few decades.. ⤵️
’70s and ’80s — The Birth of Agritourism
The 1970s and the 1980s were marked with the emergence of bed and breakfast (B&B) establishments across the province. These were generally rooms provided in farmhouses in an attempt to improve economic circumstances for the farming sector and keep people working the land. Many farmhouses were large, empty nests with children having flown the coop. Farmers were looking to supplement their income and give city dwellers a behind-the-curtain look at farm life. Tourists chose B&Bs for their comfort, cleanliness and excellent home-cooked meals. Above all else, they chose them for the connection — getting to be part of a farming family, if only for a few days.
- 1970: first on-farm accommodations and farm tours, a program designed to raise awareness of agricultural activities.
- 1972–1974: an on-farm accommodation program is launched in Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean. An initiative of the regional farmers’ union, the program catches the MAPAQ’s attention.
- Three regional organizations are incorporated to bring together farms in strategic areas, named the Agricotours Régional with branches in Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, Eastern Quebec, and the Eastern Townships. Then in 1975, the Fédération des Agficotours du Québec is created. The federation accredits establishments that meet quality standards, enabling them to join the Agricotours banner. In 1977, the first agritourism guide is published, titled Vacances dans les fermes du Québec.
- 1976: the Montreal Olympic Games leads to an influx in tourism and the emergence of B&Bs beyond the farmhouse environment. There is a continued surge in their development throughout the ’80s and ’90s.
- 1981: an on-farm dining project is launched named Table Champêtre du Québec.
’90s — The Sector Diversifies
The 1990s were marked with the continued development of B&Bs. The types of activities provided and types of businesses operating in the sector diversified, whereas traditional activities, such as on-farm accommodations and tours, slowed down. However, on-farm dining gained in popularity.
- 1991: an agreement is reached with Ulysses to publish and distribute the guidebooks Gîtes & Auberges du Passant du Québec and Tables Champêtres & Promenades à la Ferme au Québec.
’00s — The Market Expands
The 2000s sounded the rebirth of agritourism with an explosion of local products created by producers, artisans and processors. The abundance of local agrifood products were increasingly promoted by chefs at events, festivals, Christmas markets and so on.
- 2004: very first food tourism trail is created: Charlevoix’s Flavour Trail.
- 2009: The Fédération des Agricotours becomes the Association de l’Agrotourisme et du Tourisme Gourmand du Québec.
2010 to Present Day – A Form of Travel and Tourist Trend
Starting in around 2010, we have seen huge growth in the food and agritourism sector. In addition to the numerous artisans and processors cropping up around the province (distilleries, craft breweries, bakeries, etc.), there has also been a marked increase in the number of chefs and restaurateurs looking to promote the eat local trend and farm-to-table movement, adding local products to their menus.
- 2012: the Quebec Ministère du Tourisme names the AATGQ as the sectoral tourism association for agritourism and food tourism.
- 2016: in a bid to help develop the tourism client experience in Quebec, the AATGQ begins offering support services to businesses in the food and agritourism sector and to the operators of tourist attractions and services. Food tourism becomes a signature tourism product for Quebec.
- 2018: food and agritourism are recognized as the province’s flagship tourism product and the Local Flavours program is developed to promote Quebec’s food scene internationally.
- 2019: the AATGQ and the Société du réseau des économusées (SRÉ) co-chair a strategic planning session about the future of food tourism in Quebec, in collaboration with various regional tourism stakeholders.
- 2020: global COVID-19 pandemic. With the exception of restaurants and accommodation providers, businesses in the sector continue to do well. Having gained momentum in the years leading up to the pandemic, the eating and buying local trends become even more pronounced. The Provincial Action Plan is adapted to meet the challenges of the pandemic.
- 2021: The Provincial Action Plan for the Future of Food Tourism in Quebec is rolled out. The official recognition of the food and agritourism sector under MAPAQ’s sector development program enables us to hire a development officer dedicated to implementing the plan. With the AATGQ and the SRÉ at the helm, various projects start to take shape.
- 2022: the AATGQ gets a new brand identity and website. The Quebec Ministère des Relations Internationales et de la Francophonie unveils its 2022-2025 Action Plan for the International Promotion of Agritourism and Food Tourism, also known as The World at Our Table. This plan aims to raise Quebec’s profile as a culinary and agritourism destination and thus attract a growing number of international tourists. The AATGQ and the SRÉ are granted financial support to implement the plan.
For further information
Report taken from the Terroir et Saveurs du Québec Media Kit, a document on gourmet tourism in Quebec, highlighting its definition, the sector, its economic benefits, and its flagship experiences.
A veritable toolbox, this document aims to turn delegations into gourmet tourism ambassadors, equipping them with the knowledge to promote Quebec producers and artisans. To find out more, consult the complete Media Kit.