PASSION & HISTOIRE BLOG – A Portrait of Normand Gousseau

Kenza Zaoui - Translated by Thea Wortley

Receiving the ‘Leader of the Year’ award from Tourism Winnipeg is definitely worth celebrating; but for Normand Gousseau, CEO of Entreprises Riel, the award represents the hard work and collective effort of his entire team.

Normand says that community engagement is written in his DNA. In fact, he held a few different roles at the heart of the Festival du Voyageur before becoming the general manager. He has now been with Entreprises Riel and its first board of directors since 1998, and has been the Executive Director since 2008.

Entreprises Riel has the mandate of economic and tourism development in the Riel Region, also known as the heart of francophone communities in Winnipeg. The organisation takes on many roles, from marketing, to tourism, and even bowling, at the bowling lanes in Centre de la Vérendrye on Des Meurons! 

Normand and I discussed his career, his award, and his vision for the region’s tourism and economic development. Before talking about the present conditions, I wanted to ask about what comes next.

Once the pandemic is behind us, what will this industry look like? Some attractions and businesses have disappeared, and everyone in tourism has taken a hard hit over the last year. Normand estimates that the tourisme industry will require approximately three years before it can fully recover, and once the initial hesitation wears off, visitors will be able to re-discover their love for travel and exploration.  

Amongst the upcoming projects is a tour that will take place in Saint-Boniface, Saint-Vital, and Saint-Norbert, with Louis Riel as its main theme. This tour will be added to Tourisme Riel’s roster of products, including a historical walking tour, and culinary tours which typically run through the summer months.

In other important news: Entreprises Riel and the province of Manitoba plan to launch a Provincial Strategy for Francophone and Métis Tourism. Upon reopening, Saint-Boniface and the Riel Region will be eager to welcome tourists, whether local or coming from out of province, south of the border, or even from across the ocean. 

Since tourism is on pause right now, we also talked a little bit about what makes a community attractive to visitors: its tourist attractions, services, and restaurants. A place worth visiting is a place where one can live, work, and have fun. This gives us a good idea of what we can expect in the future economic development of the three neighbourhoods of the Riel Region.

If you’ve never set foot in Saint-Boniface, here are some of Normand’s recommendations: the Saint-Boniface Cathedral, Esplanade Riel, Saint-Boniface Museum, Gabrielle Roy House, Fort Gibraltar and Festival du Voyageur, Cercle Molière Theatre and events put on by the CCFM. In terms of culinary recommendations, he suggests Resto Gare, Promenade Café, Inferno’s, Constance Popp, Café Postal, and Belle Baguette.  

But don’t forget the rest: Saint-Vital, Saint-Norbert, and all the other Saints along the Red River. Once you’ve visited Saint-Boniface, let your new-found love of discovering the lively francophone history and vitality carry you from one francophone community to the next. For this purpose, Entreprises Riel works closely with the CDEM. 

Thank you, Normand, and congratulations again on your award!