SEPAQ | New CEO promises to listen

Martin Soucy knows SEPAQ well. At the age of 16, he landed a student job at Oka National Park. “I really started as a front-line employee,” declares the man who will become the new president and CEO of the Société des establishments de plein air du Québec on February 5.

Over the years, he climbed the ranks: he notably took charge of Oka Park, then that of Mont-Tremblant National Park and the Rouge-Matawin wildlife reserve, before becoming vice-president of operations. national parks and camping.

And then, in 2016, he left SEPAQ to take over as director of the Alliance de l’industrie tourisme du Québec.

“The advantage of leaving SEPAQ, to better return to it, is that it gives me a different perspective, a step back,” he says. What’s fabulous about leaving is being able to become a customer, to appreciate the services without being in day-to-day management. »

After having dropped out in this way for seven years, Martin Soucy will have to take a few weeks to regain his bearings and delve into more specialized files. However, he already has some priorities, with an emphasis on listening.


The new president and CEO of SEPAQ, Martin Soucy

When I made changes, I did so by talking with customers. It’s going to be part of my style.

Martin Soucy, new CEO of SEPAQ

In particular, he intends to listen to employees. “We are fortunate to have 3,500 employees who are in direct contact [avec les clients]. By listening, I think we always come up with something better. »

It also targets outdoor federations.

“I will have discussions with the walking federation, naturally, but also with Vélo Québec, with whom I worked. I have the chance to have a first health check from SEPAQ. What I’m going to do in my first 100 days is get in touch and see what’s being said. »

Martin Soucy is sensitive to users who believe that SEPAQ prices are too high, but he points out that services and infrastructure maintenance have a cost and that the state company also has a conservation mandate to assume.


Snowshoeing at Gaspésie Park

I will pay attention to pricing because we want the parks and our establishments to remain accessible. This is important, because if it becomes too expensive, we will only serve the elite. But I think that currently, it remains accessible, we have something for all budgets.

Martin Soucy, new CEO of SEPAQ

Some outdoor enthusiasts deplore a certain rigidity inherent in SEPAQ’s processes. The case of canoe-camping circuits is a good example: it is often necessary to plan in advance the campsites that will be used. However, due to difficult weather conditions, such as high winds, it can be dangerous to venture onto a watercourse to progress to the next site.

Without wanting to promise anything, Martin Soucy is open to greater flexibility.

“I understand because I’ve done it myself, canoe-camping,” he says. I am very aware of the SEPAQ system and customer service policies. »

He notes that he wrote many of these policies himself in the late 1990s and that they have evolved over time.

“We have to simplify people’s lives, take into account the types of customers. We will have to look at how we achieve this objective, by listening to outdoor enthusiasts. But we must remember that if we write rules, it is for the protection of the natural environment. »


Night in a SEPAQ shelter at Monts-Valins national park

For him, it is important to keep the natural side of parks and reserves. Over the past few years, he has had the opportunity to visit American parks and take notes.

“I saw that in the United States, it was sometimes very organized. I think that here, we are not at the point of pouring concrete into our paths. This is an important element for me. »

Among his personal objectives, Martin Soucy would like to cooperate with regional parks.

Regional parks are developing well, it’s a good network. They don’t have the same means, the same types of infrastructure, but I think we will benefit from supporting everyone together to increase the practice of outdoor activities.

Martin Soucy, new CEO of SEPAQ

He would also like to encourage more cultural communities to visit Quebec parks.

“I am at the root of the EXP chalets project, the family strategy, the partnerships for conservation in the peripheral zone of the parks. I was in an era of innovation, but innovation isn’t just about inventing products, it’s about having the desire to improve the way we do things. »

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