Montreal offers the international feel of a European city without leaving North America. You’ll find a pleasant mix of old and new architecture (French, British and American influences), parks, public art, signage in French and English (this is a bilingual city) and nearby neighborhoods. Perhaps this is part of the allure that draws more meetings and events to Montreal than nearly any other city in Canada? Many people don’t realize that Montreal is actually an island with 1.6 million residents, and the downtown is very walkable.
“A city’s appeal is rooted in a recipe that includes access, authenticity, lifestyle, buzz, experiences, and, of course, fun,” explains Tania Bettinelli, vice president of sales and convention services at Tourisme Montreal. “I would advise planners to consider that as the world’s second-largest French-speaking city, Montréal has accrued a reputation for its welcoming lifestyle and a dazzling arsenal of authentic, surprising, and world-calibre events that continues to exceed expectations.”
Montreal consistently ranks among the top cities in Canada and North America for international meetings, according to data from ICCA. In 2010, 314 congresses were hosted in Montreal, bringing more than 300,000 visitors to the city.
Although Montreal is known for having some extreme weather conditions in the summer and winter, Montrealers have addressed this by creating what is perhaps one of the largest underground pedestrian networks for its city center. These tunnels connect shopping malls, hotels, office buildings, train stations and the Montreal Convention Centre (550,000 square feet of meeting space and 113 meeting rooms on multiple levels).
Of course, event and meeting professionals will want their business travelers to spend as much time outdoors as possible when visiting. Montreal’s Old Port area is vibrant with cobble stone streets, art galleries, restaurants, the Notre-Dame Bascilica (yes, you’ll feel like you’ve been transported to Paris when you see it) and boutique hotels, such as Le Saint Sulpice. If you’re looking for a unique event venue, consider a welcome reception using the lobby or outside terrace at the Montreal City Hall.
Montreal Business Hotels
Montreal’s downtown offers 62 hotels and 15,000 hotel rooms (effective June 2011). And Montreal is a popular host city that allows smaller conventions to feel intimate while major congresses can practically take over the city. For example, the International Association of Administrative Assistants will host 2,000 attendees at its 2011 convention (July 24-27) and the International Federal of Human Genetics Societies will bring 7,500 delegates/travelers to its 20 11 convention later this year (October 11-15). Montreal was also selected as the host city for 8,000 delegates at the American Industry Hygiene Association convention in 2013 (May 15-24).
The average business traveler’s trip is about 3.5 nights. Three business hotels in Montreal include:
• Hilton Montreal Bonaventure
• Le Westin Montreal
• Omni Mont Royale
Other popular business travel hotels in Montreal include InterContinental Montreal and Sofitel Montreal Golden Mile.
If you’re headed to Montreal for a congress or other major event, chances are it may include The Montreal Convention Center (Palais des Congrés Montreal). Its exterior is easily recognized by its modern mix of mosaic colored glass window panels. Offering 550,000 square feet of meeting space and 113 meeting rooms, the Palais is recognized for its green facilities (reducing water use, recycling, and eco-friendly construction materials. It’s also within a short walking distance from all major hotels.
Montreal Business Activities
“Montréal culinary tours are popular because one can discover the city through its gastronomy in general, and get a sense of the city’s ethnic diversity in particular by visiting specific neighborhoods and tasting their unique menus,” Bettinelli explains.
Montreal has 5,000 restaurants and catering establishments (more per capita than anywhere else in North America), serving more than 80 types of international cuisine. And there are plenty of options for off-site venues for meetings and events — art galleries, museums, outdoor spaces, cruises, historical settings, private clubs, urban options and more. For a unique experience, Montreal is known for its gastronomy, so consider organizing an interactive cooking class. Attendees shop at the Jean-Talon Market (which is more of an authentic market because it is frequented by local residents more than visitors), and bring their produce back to the kitchens of one of Montreal’s cooking schools (such as Guild Culinaire).
Of course, it is well-known that Montréal has some of the best and unique boutiques in all of North America, so a shopping tour of the city is often at the top of the list of offsite activities. Also, thanks to the global appeal of the Montréal-born Cirque du Soleil, circus events (Cirque du Soleil, Cirque Éloize, and others) and tours of the National Circus School remain among favored attractions.
Other Details About Montreal
Montreal-Trudeau International Airport has more than 200 daily flights from 70 U.S. and international cities, and is only a 20 minute drive to downtown Montreal.
Tourism Montreal provides information for business travel and meetings. Planners can reach out to them to coordinate RFPs, organize site inspections, secure hotel space, provide online meeting tools and other services.
Why choose Montreal? “Where else in North America can visitors participate in such a unique multilingual environment, whose European accents of culture, history, and architecture are equally matched by large measures of great food and joie de vivre?,” Bettinelli says.
Updated. Initially published June 15, 2011.