Eight years ago, the Monastère des Augustines changed its vocation. The hotel company is now grappling with the same concerns as those working in the same niche: labor shortage, inflation… But in this unusual place, we draw inspiration from the philosophy of the Augustines to manage the business and people.

“The Augustines are considered one of the first communities of women entrepreneurs in the country,” says Isabelle Duchesneau, general director of the Monastère des Augustines. “They founded, built, managed hospitals,” she continues. They did everything. »

About ten years ago, the Augustinians undertook the transformation of their immense monastery in Old Quebec. They wanted to ensure the sustainability of the place, because the group was declining and replacements were rare. The reflection on the conservation of their heritage, a precursor to this change, had lasted more than 20 years.

“They asked themselves the question,” continues the general director: “what do we do with this nearly 400-year-old heritage? »

Before deciding what to do next, the sisters commissioned studies, workshops and consultations to understand how they could continue to serve the community differently. And possibly, without them.

This led to the creation of two organizations in 2009, an NPO (the Monastère des Augustines) and a trust whose mandate is to protect the heritage of the Augustines, including this incredible monastery, its artifacts and archives. The trust, which owns the building, takes care of its maintenance. She is also the guardian of the Augustines’ intentions. “They ensured that everything that would eventually be done at the monastery would be done with the intention of protecting their memory,” explains Isabelle Duchesneau. It’s in the constitution. That’s life. »

Isabelle Duchesneau has been at the Monastery since 2012, at the beginning of the conversion. His role: to set up a business model for this atypical company, which had very clear intentions.

However, this is not the case here, since 80% of resources come from own-source revenues, the majority of which comes from rooms. Another 15% comes from public funds, particularly on specific projects, and the remaining 5% comes from philanthropic funds. This excludes the public investments necessary for the transformation, at the very beginning of the project.

The niche of global health and wellness tourism was chosen to fit with the Augustinian philosophy, but it also came at the right time: what we call in English “wellness” tourism is booming.

People travel to be better. They include treatments or movement in their vacation. We want to recharge our batteries. The Augustines environment offers exactly that.

In 2020, the Monastery reached its budgetary balance, explains the general director. And despite the pandemic, which hurt the hotel sector, the following years, 2021 and 2022, made it possible to generate surpluses.

This year things are different: inflation is catching up with the Monastery. Even for a wellness niche. The occupancy rate remains stable at around 70%, but expenses are not keeping pace. People choose cheaper rooms and buy less at the store, explains the director, who is working on a revision of the business plan.

The mission remains: well-being, that which begins with oneself. In this sense, the Augustines were precursors. They were living in the present moment long before the discourse was co-opted by the wellness industry.

Today, this mission is still fulfilled, in particular by allowing a certain clientele to find respite at the Monastery, which offers a solidarity rate to caregivers, caregivers or people who have to go to Quebec to accompany a sick person. Surpluses from recent years have been redistributed for these social programs.

“The sisters have done this in the past. To manage their hospitals, they offered the wealthy real tableware and luxury cutlery, recalls Isabelle Duchesneau. They put them in paid private rooms. With this money, they welcomed the poorest, free of charge. »