Festival International de Jazz de Montreal
Toronto, Quebec City and Montreal ring in a new era of tourism
Perhaps 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.
Last 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, Toronto
Get 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 City
There 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.”
Quebec 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, Montreal
When 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.
Season of Soirees
More than 100 festivals happen in Montreal every year, from world-class culinary events to free outdoor gatherings. Festival International de Jazz de Montreal, a legendary jazz event ranked the largest in the world by Guinness World Records, takes place this June 29–July 9. More than 2 million festivalgoers soak up the concert sights and sounds, with two-thirds of the events offering free admission.
Just for Laughs, one of the most prestigious events in television and comedy, is unveiling new programing for its 34th annual festival July 13–31. Comedy fans will be able to meet their favorite artists, comedians and personalities during exclusive live experiences. This year’s headliners include comedy heavyweights Jimmy Carr and Gad Elmaleh, who will perform at Le Gesu, one of the oldest theaters in Montreal’s arts district.
Official birthday celebrations for the 375th anniversary begin in December, enlivening the city with artistic installations and landmark events. Montreal en Lumiere, to be held Feb. 23–March 12, is a feast for the senses, with music, theater and dance performances; food and wine events featuring culinary masters; and light installations, including one at the iconic Jacques Cartier Bridge. Celebratory plans for the official founding of Montreal on May 17 have yet to be announced, but there will definitely be plenty of cake to go around.
Helping Planners Make Meetings Happen
Christopher Marilley, director of meeting and convention sales for Tourisme Montreal, offers insights on organizing an event in Montreal.
What makes Montreal such a great place to hold meetings?
There are many reasons. Montreal is a unique meeting destination because delegates get to experience a European-style city in North America. With a state-of-the-art convention center on the border of downtown and the old town, delegates can experience the cosmopolitan and the historical features, and ambiance of the city. Montreal has 12,000 hotel rooms downtown, of which 4,000 are connected to the underground city, and you can experience all of this on foot. Montreal is a walking city and is extremely safe.
What are the first steps a meeting planner should take when planning a conference in Montreal?
The first step a meeting planner should take is to contact Tourisme Montreal, and one of our meeting and convention sales managers will assist you with the planning of your conference. We are able to collect proposals or put you in contact with any of our 800 qualified members or qualified convention partners.
Do you provide planners with a single point of contact?
Our meeting and convention sales manager will assist planners with the distribution of the RFP and the collection of proposals and information, organize the site visit and follow up with the necessary contracting. Once the meeting is confirmed, our convention services expert will assist the planner with meeting logistics, customs information and social media platforms, and help ensure a positive meeting experience. Planners will always have one point of contact throughout the meeting process.
Does your office take care of reservations and bookings for planners in the United States?
We have a team of sales managers based across the United States, as well as in the Montreal office who are dedicated to planners and their organizations in the U.S. This is an important market for us and represents a third of our overall convention business.
Major Meeting Venues
Full-service hotel; 456 guest rooms; 15,000 sq. ft. of meeting space; some meeting rooms have outdoor terraces; fitness center.
Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth
In the heart of the Commercial District; 982 guest rooms; 46,500 sq. ft. of meeting space; three excellent restaurants; 3,000-seat theater.
Hotel William Gray
New boutique hotel opens this summer; steps from Place Jacques-Cartier and Old Port; 127 guest rooms and suites; more than 10,000 sq. ft. of meeting space; 180-seat restaurant; rooftop terrace; luxury spa; outdoor pool; boutique.
Le Centre Sheraton
Renovated downtown property; close to business, cultural and entertainment centers; 825 guest rooms; 51,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, including 1,770-seat theater.
Le Westin Montreal
Across the street from the convention center and close to picturesque Old Montreal; 455 guest rooms; 45,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, with natural light; open-air terrace with great views.
Loews Hotel Vogue
Elegant downtown hotel; 142 guest rooms; 6,500 sq. ft. of meeting space; Le Societe Bistro restaurant serves French cuisine with locally sourced ingredients.
AAA Five Diamond luxury hotel; high-profile guests have included Elizabeth Taylor, Queen Elizabeth II, Winston Churchill and the Rolling Stones; Maison Boulud restaurant; 98 guest rooms; 12,000 sq. ft. of meeting space; indoor saltwater pool.
Connected to convention center by underground passageway; close to attractions and landmarks; 377 guest rooms; 12,024 sq. ft. of meeting space.
Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac
Overlooks Old City and St. Lawrence Seaway; one of the world’s great landmark hotels, with a history dating to 1893; castle-like exterior; 611 guest rooms; 40,000 sq. ft. of meeting space.
Quebec City landmark on Parliament Hill; distinctive, revolving top-floor restaurant; 571 guest rooms; 46,504 sq. ft. of meeting space; views of Old City and St. Lawrence River.
Hotel Chateau Laurier Quebec
Historic hotel located close to Grand Allee and Plains of Abraham; 282 guest rooms; 17,000 sq. ft. of meeting space; first “franco-responsible” hotel in North America.
Hotel Le Bonne Entente
AAA Four Star Four Diamond hotel; 160 guest rooms; manicured gardens; signature restaurants; shuttle service to city center and airport; La Tempete Golf Club; more than 20 flexible meeting rooms accommodate up to 500 people.
Quebec City Marriott Downtown
Located near attractions such as Parliament Hill, Citadelle of Quebec and Montmorency Falls; 3,500 sq. ft. of meeting space; 103 guest rooms; Que Sera Sera restaurant; 24-hour fitness center.
Fairmont Royal York
Originally built as Ontario Terrace in 1843; officially opened as The Royal York in 1929; faces Union Station; 898 guest rooms; 61,560 sq. ft. of meeting space; 32 function rooms.
Four Seasons Hotel Toronto
AAA Five Diamond, Forbes Five Star, 55-story hotel; 259 guest rooms; 14,300 sq. ft. of meeting space includes 6,776-square-foot ballroom; 30,000-square-foot state-of-the-art spa; Cafe Boulud and d|bar; indoor relaxation pool.
Hilton Toronto Airport Hotel & Suites
Located directly across from Pearson International Airport (YYZ); 419 guest rooms; Bliss Restaurant & Bar; 23,000 sq. ft. of space; close to International Centre and Toronto Congress Centre.
International Plaza Hotel
Just minutes from Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ); 433 guest rooms and suites; 60,000 sq. ft. of flexible function space; 24-hour airport shuttle service; Green Key Global award.
InterContinental Toronto Centre
AAA Four Diamond-rated hotel attached to Metro Toronto Convention Centre; 586 guest rooms, with views of downtown and Lake Ontario; more than 18,000 sq. ft. of meeting space; 8,000-square-foot Aveda concept spa; complimentary Wi-Fi.
Omni King Edward Hotel
Historic hotel built in 1903; underwent a $40 million renovation in 2015; 301 guest rooms and suites; state-of-the-art fitness center; 22,000 sq. ft. of flexible function space; Victoria’s Restaurant.
Park Hyatt Toronto
Located in the Yorkville neighborhood; close to downtown attractions, including Royal Ontario Museum; 336 guest rooms; 17,000 sq. ft. of event space; 10,000-square-foot Stillwater Spa; bicycle valet program; complimentary Wi-Fi.
The Ritz-Carlton, Toronto
AAA Five Diamond luxury hotel; five-minute walk to Rogers Centre, home of Toronto Blue Jays; 263 guest rooms; 23,335 sq. ft. of meeting space; largest luxury ballroom in Toronto, with 7,400 sq. ft. of space; commissioned collection of more than 400 pieces of Canadian art.