Montreal has a lot to celebrate. Not only did it turn 375 years old in 2017, but the city is in the midst of a renaissance. Startups are setting up shop in co-working spaces across the city; production and arts companies couldn’t find a better home with Cirque du Soleil right around the corner; and the video game business is generating thousands of jobs thanks to world-leading development studios like Ubisoft and Electronic Arts residing here.
But the most notable boom lies with meetings and tourism, says Pierre Bellerose, vice president of public relations, research and product development at Tourisme Montreal. “The city is experiencing amazing growth in tourism right now,” he says, citing the nearly 1,500 hotel rooms being added to the metro area’s current 24,000.
As one of the most bilingual cities in Quebec (French is the primary language, followed by English), Montreal is an attractive spot for international meetings gathering guests from around the world. It’s no wonder Montreal has been named a top international conventions city by International Congress and Convention Association six years in a row. See for yourself why planners are falling in love with The City of Saints.
3 Ways to Meet in Montreal
For Art Lovers...
Opera de Montreal has a variety of packages available to groups. Give up to 350 attendees a moment in the spotlight by hosting a private reception onstage at Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier, or go behind the scenes with an intimate dinner for up to 16 at Opera de Montreal’s costume workshop, where attendees are wined and dined among 4,000 costumes.
For History Buffs...
Available for groups of up to nearly 1,000, Marche Bonsecours overlooks the St. Lawrence River in Old Montreal. In addition to 27,000 square feet of exhibition space, the 1897 neoclassical building is home to 13 boutique shops, several art galleries and restaurants, and a pub. (Pro tip: Give attendees plenty of time to explore between meetings here.)
No one does pastries quite like the French. At pastry shop and school Maison Christian Faure, attendees can work alongside award-winning chef Christian Faure in a teambuilding workshop. Two reception rooms are available on the top floor, with views overlooking Old Montreal and catering by the Maison Christian Faure team.
You can’t visit Montreal without tasting one (or all) of its staple foods. Build in some downtime for attendees to grab a bite of these three Montreal delights.
If you thought New York City was home to the world’s best bagels, you haven’t tasted the ones in Montreal. In comparison to New York bagels, which are boiled before baking, Montreal’s bagels are sweeter, and are hand-rolled and baked in a wood-burning oven.
Hot spot: Opened in 1919 as the first bagel bakery in Montreal, Fairmount Bagel’s doughy treats come in more than 20 flavors. The sesame seed variety tops the chart.
This kosher-style deli meat is made from salted and cured beef brisket that’s smoked and steamed to perfection. It’s often served stacked between rye bread and doused in yellow mustard.
Hot Spot: Opened in 1928 and co-owned by Celine Dion, Schwartz’s cures meats with its world-famous seasonings—so famous Schwartz’s is credited as the origin of Montreal steak seasoning. Come early, as the line is often out the door.
Meet Canada’s favorite comfort food. A mix of fries, cheese curds and brown gravy, poutine got its start in Quebec in the ’50s and made its way into hockey rinks, diners and Canadian locations of American fast-food chains like McDonald’s and Wendy’s.
Hot spot: Open 24/7, La Banquise dishes up more than 30 types of poutine stacked with your choice of toppings. The meat lovers in your group will go nuts over La T-Rex: ground beef, smoked meat, pepperoni, bacon and hot dogs.
New and Upcoming HotelsWilliam Gray, 127 rooms, opened September 2016 Le Mount Stephen Hotel, 90 rooms, opened May 2017 Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth, 950 rooms, opened July 2017 Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites Montreal Centre-ville Ouest, 221 rooms, opened July 2017 Hotel Monville, 269 rooms, opened September 2017 AC Hotel Montreal Downtown, 166 rooms, opening February 2018 Four Seasons Montreal, 163 rooms, opening late 2018
Fate played a part in the planning of Destinations International’s Annual Convention in Montreal in 2017 as the destination marketing association went through a complete rebrand from its former name of DMAI.
“The decision [for us to meet in] Montreal was made by previous leadership, but there was no doubt the city would ensure a hugely successful convention for us,” says Colleen Phalen, CMP, CEM, executive vice president of program management and meetings at Destinations International.
More than 1,400 CVB and destination marketing professionals gathered for the three-day event in July at Palais des congres de Montreal, which has 550,000 square feet of meeting space and is designed with rainbow-colored, floor-to-ceiling windows (undoubtedly the world’s most colorful convention center).
Both the opening and closing receptions were held off-site to allow attendees to experience Montreal’s diverse culture and history, says Phalen. “Even under threat of rain, we knew we wanted to hold our opening reception in the Old Port so attendees could have the view of the Old City and experience the true sights and tastes of Montreal,” she says.
With any international destination, there are concerns on travel logistics, but Phalen says it was a breezy process for her event. “Montreal is a world-class city and is experienced in dealing with events from all over the world,” she says, noting a customs broker was on hand to make sure attendees had no trouble getting in. “I strongly encourage any planner to meet with the CVB to avoid any issues with shipping, customs or travel,” adds Phalen.