Québécois tourists in Florida: a sociocultural phenomenon
Québécois tourists at Hollywood Beach in Florida, December 2013. © R. Tremblay.
There is no such thing as the “south” in Quebec! In the 1980s, geographer Christian Morissonneau noted that the popular consensus among Quebeckers regarding the South centred around a region beyond state borders, but within the same time zone: Miami and the state of Florida. How could this be? First came the liberating effects of the Quiet Revolution1, then the creation of wealth in Quebec which resulted in the possibility of more varied leisure activities.
In fact, between 1980 and 2000, the French-speaking population of Florida nearly quadrupled (an increase of 180%). This rapid population growth gave rise to the creation of a new toponym in southern Florida: Floribec, a community of Québécois tourists and immigrants.
During the 1980s, there were nearly 300,000 Québécois tourists per year, excluding the hundreds of thousands who had already become American citizens. They quite literally took control of Hollywood beach, along with other beaches to the south of Miami, which had been attracting tourists since the 1970s.
However, at the turn of the century, Hollywood, the economic heartland of Floribec, was in decline due to the closure and demolition of Floribec businesses and motels. The mayor of the city is following in her counterparts’ footsteps along Miami’s coast and promoting the construction of luxury condos and hotels. In addition, the socio-professional class to which Floribec’s residents belong is not to the liking of the mayor of Hollywood, who sees in this situation a lucrative opportunity to attract more well-off, sophisticated tourists. This move has not been popular with the monolingual French-speaking, psycho-centric2 Québécois middle class.
At this time, there are still many Québécois tourists on the beaches, but they are finding that there are far fewer services in French offered by and for Quebeckers. They congregate almost entirely in January during CanadaFest, an annual festival bringing together Floribec businesses and Quebec singers on the boardwalk. This cultural event draws approximately 100,000 visitors per year.
This exodus is made easier by the increasing number of affordable tourist destinations, including the Dominican Republic, which is greatly appreciated by Quebeckers and investors. This adds to the damage that has already been done to the Floribec economy. It must be said that sun-seeking tourists, especially couples and lone voyagers not intending to travel by car, are tempted by the Dominican Republic – including former Florida fans seeking minimum temperatures of 25°C. The number of direct flights to the island from Montreal and Quebec City are rapidly increasing to respond to demand, as trips there are often less expensive than Florida. Quebeckers are beginning to purchase motels and restaurants to serve their compatriots, which is especially the case in the Dominican Republic.
We do not believe that the situation in the Dominican Republic is identical to that in Floribec. After all, this region in Florida is considered by some to be part of French America: a Francophone community on North American soil, a kind of extension of Quebec on American territory. Such an area cannot be reproduced in a State where the culture is so far removed from the continent of North America – at least, if historical indications are to be believed.
1 Editor’s note: denotes a period, which began in 1960 with the Quebec Liberal Party’s election and continued until the end of the 1980s, characterised by the implementation of a welfare state, State secularisation and the construction of a new Quebec national identity.
2 Editor’s note: denotes, according to Stanley Plog (1974, “Why Destination Areas Rise and Fall in Popularity.” Cornell Hotel and Restaurant Administration Quarterly, vol.14, n°4, pp. 55-58), a category of tourists who travel away from home to typical, accessible places where they intend to find elements of their daily lifestyle.
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Rémy Tremblay, Québécois tourists in Florida: a sociocultural phenomenon, Via@, Pictures, posted on january 23rd, 2015.
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