Montréal is often described as one of the most European-looking cities outside Europe. Add in numerous outdoor cafés, a Paris-influenced Metro, safe streets and bilingual population, and it is no wonder planners choose the city more than ever for MICE events.
According to Tourisme Montréal, Montréal welcomed 11.1 million tourists in 2019, an increase of 2.2 percent over 2018. Compared with the year prior, cross-border arrivals were up 5.4 percent while the number of overseas tourists climbed 7.3 percent. In 2019 Montréal’s Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport welcomed 20.3 million passengers (inbound and outbound), marking a 4.5 percent increase over 2018.
For a third year in a row, Montréal retained its title as the top host city in the Americas for international events, according to the International Meetings Statistics Report for 2019 recently released by the Union of International Associations. The city welcomed 129 international events last year, more than destinations like New York, Washington, D.C., Toronto and Buenos Aires. Also in 2019, the International Congress and Convention Association crowned Montréal No. 1 in North America for international meetings for a fourth consecutive year.
“Were it not for the COVID-19 global pandemic, our city would have continued hosting international events and attaining new levels in 2020,” said Yves Lalumière, CEO, Tourisme Montréal. “Just like its citizens, Montréal and the members of its business tourism community have been resilient and proactive in the face of the pandemic, so that once we have the green light from the national and international authorities, we may continue building on the momentum the city was experiencing.
The Palais des Congrès (Montréal Convention Centre) developed new health measures under a reopening operating guide and introduced new services such as hybrid event turnkey packages and a video and podcast studio to help customers reach more participants by tapping into digital opportunities.
According to Robert Mercure, CEO, Palais des Congrès, “Once again, the synergy between the various players in the industry, businesspeople, the academic community and our invaluable Ambassadors allowed us to host numerous events, and maintaining this team spirit will matter more [than] ever as we strive to meet the challenges engendered by the pandemic.”
Montréal hosts more than 100 festivals every year, from world-class culinary events to large outdoor gatherings. The bigger events include the Montréal International Jazz Festival; Just for Laughs; and Montréal en Lumière (Festival of Light), encompassing music, theater and dance performances; food and wine events; and light installations including one at the iconic Jacques Cartier Bridge (February–March).
Montréal offers many deluxe MICE hotels such as Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth (950 rooms); Le Centre Sheraton (982); Le Westin Montréal (455); Loews Hôtel Vogue (142); The Ritz-Carlton, Montréal (98); and the Hyatt Regency Montreal (595). All offer ample meeting space, fine dining and catering options.
Newer additions to the meeting hotels sector include the boutique 90-room Le Mount Stephen in a restored historic building with floor-to-ceiling windows, on-site spa and the British-inspired Bar George. The modern, tech-savvy Hôtel Monville offers 269 guestrooms as well as meeting space on the 20th floor, situated just steps from the Palais des Congrès. The 169-room AC Marriott Montréal Centre-Ville marked Marriott’s first AC Hotel brand in Canada. After a 20-year absence, Four Seasons returned to Montréal in 2019 as an 18-story, 166-room, mixed-use hotel complex that includes retail spaces, a restaurant and bar, a Four Seasons Spa and 18 luxury residences.
Two excursion companies offer meeting and dining space on board St. Lawrence River cruise boats. Le Bateau-Mouche launched in 1992 and earned the Tourism Grand Prix from the Office des Congrès et du Tourisme du Grand Montréal in the Tourist Innovation category. With the addition of a 440-square- foot, open-air deck, the boat’s full length now reaches 110 feet, with a capacity of 190. For MICE groups, Le Bateau-Mouche offers several options, including a 1.5-hour tour that departs from the Jacques-Cartier Pier at the Old Port of Montréal and passes Montréal Olympic Stadium, Montréal Science Centre, Jacques Cartier Bridge and Habitat 67. The 3.5-hour dinner cruise includes fine-dining menu options, a live musical performance and a sound and light experience. Cruises are scheduled to resume May 2021.
Another option for St. Lawrence River cruising is the AML Cavalier Maxim. MICE planners can negotiate a complete buy-out or use one or more of the boat’s four decks. The cruise offers guided sightseeing and lunch or dinner cruises. Deck A features a multipurpose panoramic room with a capacity of 250. Deck B has the Maxi Club, with access to an outdoor terrace and a capacity of 160, and the Intimate Atrium, a private lounge with a panoramic view accommodating 60. Deck C, on the upper level, features windows on both sides and a 210-seat terrace.
Other popular MICE activities on the St. Lawrence River include jet boating and rafting in summer and learning to play ice hockey or curling in winter.
Relive more than 500 years of history at Château Ramezay – Historic Site and Museum of Montréal. A former governor’s residence, the colonial manor dates back to the 18th-century French Régime and became a museum in 1895. Its collection of rare artifacts provides a unique view of the history of Montréal and Québec; visitors can also take part in educational and cultural activities. Host a reception for up to 100 people in the French colonial-style Governor’s Garden, or book an indoor meeting room (accommodating 35) or The Château for a group of 100.
Musée d’Art Contemporain de Montréal (Museum of Contemporary Art), also known as the MAC, offers MICE planners a trendy environment on the Place des Arts, where many of Montréal’s international festivals hold gala events. A larger, newly designed MAC will open at the same location in 2021 with an eclectic angular overhang and new spaces for Le Restaurant du MAC opening onto an outdoor terrace. The expanded and transformed venue will greatly enhance the options for group events.
As more destinations around the globe reopen to travelers, we are ready to get back to one of our favorite activities. Join us over the next several weeks as we take you to places around the world saying #WelcomeBacktoTravel. Take a visual journey through Charleston, South Carolina, with us.
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