Festival International de Jazz de Montreal
Toronto, Quebec City and Montreal ring in a new era of tourismPerhaps not since U.S. President John F. Kennedy has there been an elected official who has captured the interest and imagination of people around the world as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau does today. During the election, Trudeau was portrayed as an inexperienced candidate riding on the coattails of his father, former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, who is credited for helping Canada become one of the most progressive countries in the world. But after years of conservative leadership, Canada was ready for change, and elected the younger Trudeau to the country’s highest public office in 2015. Trudeau, the second youngest Canadian prime minister, has serenaded the media with his progressive views, youthful charisma and unconventional activities—from boxing matches and yoga poses to his budding bromance with President Barack Obama. “We think that Prime Minister Trudeau’s media savviness could impact Canada’s visibility positively, including Canadian tourism,” says P. Michel Bouchard, CEO of Quebec City Business Destination and Quebec City Convention Centre. “In the few short months he has been in office, he has raised our country’s visibility considerably on the international stage.” Trudeau’s political presence has undoubtedly elevated Canada’s profile, precipitating an increase in the number of visitors to cities such as Toronto, Quebec City and Montreal. Eastern Canada is bracing for a record number of business and leisure travelers, as a flood of milestone events and some of the world’s largest cultural celebrations transform these cities into much more than a French-speaking destination.
TorontoLast year, Toronto broke tourism records left, right and center. Already the most visited destination in Canada, the North American hub received 14 million overnight visitors and 26 million day-trippers, and surpassed 4 million international travelers for the first time. This year is predicted to be even better, with a slate of special events, grand art installations and citywide celebrations. “Our destination has never looked better or been more attractive to foreign and domestic travelers,” says Johanne Belanger, president and CEO of Tourism Toronto. “In addition to hotel stays, visitors spend money on meals; attractions; ticketed events like theater, live music and sports; nightlife; taxis; and shopping. Our meeting and events industry also generates widespread economic activity.” For the first time ever, the 2016 NBA All-Star Game took place outside the United States. Some of the best NBA players of all time faced off in February at Toronto’s Air Canada Centre and Ricoh Coliseum. Hockey fans are gearing up for the next big game this fall: The 2016 World Cup of Hockey will bring more than 150 top NHL players to Toronto Sept. 17–Oct. 1. Eight teams representing more than 15 countries will play in one of the most competitive hockey tournaments in the world.
Progressive Arts & Culture
Gay Pride, TorontoGet ready to raise your rainbow flag high. Toronto is declaring this June as Pride Month, a citywide celebration of free expression and love. Programs and events will take place all month long, culminating with the annual 10-day Pride Toronto festival, one of the largest LGBT celebrations in the world. This year’s parade, in its 35th year, will mark the first time a sitting prime minister participates in the festivities. North by Northwest (NXNE) is Canada’s answer to South by Southwest. The interactive arts festival kicks off in summer with live music performances, art installations, a comedy fest and a film extravaganza June 15–19. More than 350,000 fans from around the world converge every year at NXNE, which has become a gathering place for multimedia collaborators—from emerging artists and headliners to filmmakers and digital innovators—who bridge the gap between technology and the arts. This year NXNE will offer a new outdoor experience at Port Lands, which will anchor the multivenue festival that takes over the city’s downtown parks, stages and even parts of Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ). The Interactive, Music and Gaming Conference will offer its speaker series, industry panels and networking events in a brand new format. The music-meets-gaming aspect will spill over into a massive free outdoor concert series held in Yonge-Dundas Square.
Festival d'ete, Quebec CityThere are many reasons visitors from around the world flock to Quebec City. The oldest fortified city in North America, Vieux Quebec (the old city) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site filled with French-style historic landmarks and hundreds of photographic points of interest along the St. Lawrence River. The sense of history in this Quebecois city is palpable, but so is its modern, vibrant spirit that is saturating older neighborhoods with a burst of youthful enthusiasm and creativity. New Quebec embraces arts and culture with major festivals and events that draw millions more for its famous joie de vivre. According to Quebec City Business Destination, an entity created by Quebec City Tourism and Quebec City Convention Centre, 4.9 million tourists came to Quebec City in 2015. This year, the number is likely to grow due to increased connectivity from Quebec City Jean Lesage International Airport (YQB) and its popularity as a meetings destination. “There’s so much about the destination itself,” says Emilie Belisle, information officer for Quebec City Convention Centre. “We have a definite European flair, with our 400-year history. It creates a great backdrop for an event. Clients have mentioned how holding their event in Quebec City boosted attendance.”
Festival CentralQuebec City welcomes the summer with Festival d’ete, the biggest outdoor concert series in the city. Each year, around 1.5 million festivalgoers gather on the Plains of Abraham, the largest urban park in downtown Quebec. The festival, which takes place this July 7–17, is jam-packed with nearly 300 live shows across 10 indoor and outdoor stages. This year’s lineup of international artists includes Sting, Selena Gomez, Duran Duran, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Kaskade and Brad Paisley. Despite freezing temperatures during colder months, Quebecers still find reason to celebrate when the stone-walled city is covered in snow. Winter Carnival is one of the largest winter festivals in the world, and happens during the first two weeks of February. The annual 100-year tradition is headquartered in the aptly named Ice Palace, which is made of carved ice blocks lit up with neon colors that glow across from Parliament Building. Winter Carnival even has its own jovial snowman mascot, Bonhomme, who makes surprise appearances during the various festivities scattered around the city. More than 200 winter-themed activities—from canoe races, snow sculpture competitions and ice skating to giant bowling, Ferris wheel rides and night parades—ensure there’s plenty to do for meeting groups.
Just for Laughs, MontrealWhen Canada won rights to hold the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup, Montreal was selected as one of five cities to host the international football world championship games. It was the first time the tournament took place in Canada, drawing a cumulative 1.3 million spectators to venues such as Montreal’s Olympic Stadium, where the United States played against Germany before clinching the cup. As an international sports destination that’s home to the Montreal Canadiens (known as the Habs), one of the most successful hockey teams in the NHL, the city hosts big events with ease. Last year 9.6 million tourists came to Montreal, and this year the number is expected to cross 10 million—making it one of the most visited places in North America. This bilingual metropolis is filled with French influence and cosmopolitan energy in the form of globally inspired cuisine, cultural diversity and an array of festivals leading up to Montreal’s founding celebrations. “The year 2017 will mark Montreal’s 375th anniversary and will be punctuated with commemorative events in Montreal, marking a new phase in the city’s efforts to position itself as a cultural metropolis and international-caliber tourist destination,” says Christopher Marilley, director of meeting and convention sales for Tourisme Montreal.