The state of Québec has granted the seaplane operator Air Tunilik CAD5 million Canadian dollars (USD3.9 million) for an expansion project aimed at improving air access and tourism to remote northern regions of the state.

The Air Tunilik project involves the acquisition of several assets and water bases from Air Saguenay (Lac Sebastien) (out of service since 2019) to maintain tourism flights and increase traffic in the Nord-du-Québec and Côte-Nord regions. It is to contribute to the structuring of tourism products by ensuring air access to these remote regions.

The funding was announced in a statement by Québec Tourism Minister Caroline Proulx, along with the energy and natural resources minister responsible for the Côte-Nord region, Jonatan Julien, and Air Tunilik president and chief executive Simon Contant. The two ministers also announced CAD8 million (USD6.3 million) in support for the creation of an “incubator-accelerator” to stimulate tourism projects north of the 49th parallel (a circle of latitude that is 49° north of Earth's equator).

The financial assistance is granted under the state tourism support fund (Programme d'appui au développement des attraits touristiques - PADAT), managed by provincially owned lender Investissement Québec. CAD2 million (USD1.5 million) was allocated in the form of a grant and CAD3 million (USD2.3 million) in the form of a loan. The total cost of the tourism project is valued at over CAD10 million (USD7.9 million).

"This project will have positive effects for the Côte-Nord and Nord-du-Québec tourism industry. It will help increase the number of visitors and overnight stays, as well as tourism revenues, by giving access to these more remote regions. Air Tunilik will have the potential to bring clientele to existing local tourism businesses and entrepreneurs, who will benefit from the support for the incubator-accelerator for tourism projects north of the 49th parallel," commented Proulx.

"Improving access to remote regions is part of our government's priorities. That's why I'm delighted with this investment, which will ensure an air link to the regions north of the 49th parallel. This project is perfectly consistent with the 2020-2023 Northern Action Plan, which has the specific aim of supporting tourism development so that northern communities benefit from its effects," added Julien.

With over 50 years of experience, Air Tunilik operates a fleet of 12 seaplanes including six-seat DHC-2s, nine-seat DHC-3s, and nine-seat DHC-3s, making it the leading bush plane operator in Québec and one of the biggest in North America, according to Contant. “Our bases of operations cover all of North-Central Québec, from James Bay to the Lower North Shore. Over the years, we have established many collaborations with outfitters, vacationers, and indigenous communities to make Québec's territory more safely accessible."

Contant said water bases used by Air Tunilik include Manic-5, Sept-Îles, Havre St. Pierre, Natashquan, Wabush, Caniapiscau, Baie Comeau, Mirage, and Waskaganish. The company plans to offer its services within a 200 km radius of the water bases.

He said Air Tunilik planned to develop new water bases and have more aircraft in operation, with the goal of increasing its passenger traffic from 1,000 in 2019 to more than 13,000 in 2022. This expansion project should also allow it to increase its employee numbers from three to 43 by 2022.

PADAT, managed by Investissement Québec on behalf of the Québec government, aims to encourage private investments in tourism in Québec and increase the number of visitors and tourism revenue growth.