. Montreal Courts U.S. Meetings Business | Northstar Meetings Group

Montreal Courts U.S. Meetings Business

A new program plans to give planners access to local luminaries in business, science, education and the arts  

Tourisme Montreal, which celebrates its centennial this year, is upping its game in an aggressive bid to win more group business from several key U.S. markets, including Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Seattle and Washington. Earlier this month it launched two new initiatives -- Business Meetings Montreal and Sports Events Montreal -- to help the destination stand out in the eyes of meeting and sports-event planners.

"Even though Montreal faces tough competition, we feel confident knowing that our organization has so much to offer," Yves Lalumière, president and chief executive officer of Tourisme Montreal, told Northstar when reached by telephone. "Montreal has been transforming itself in the last five years with increased airlift and new hotels, and from a cultural standpoint, we have a tremendous value proposition. That's what we want to get out there."

In 2018, tourism spending in the city reached approximately US$4.5 billion, with group business accounting for 21 percent of that, or roughly US$359 million. The city has added 15 new hotels in the last five years, with another three major developments in the pipeline, including the US$200 million, 169-room Four Seasons Montreal, which is scheduled to officially open on May 8. New international routes, primarily via Air Canada, such as nonstop service to Tokyo and Bucharest, Romania, which were added in 2018, have positioned the destination as a major gateway city.

Tourism Montreal believes that they can grab an ever greater share of the pie if they double down on delivering new incentives to event planners, such as guaranteeing access to the C-suite of some of the city's major industry players.

"We are looking to guarantee planners access to whomever they want to meet in our aerospace, life sciences, our universities and creative industries that we call our local champions," said Lalumière. "We are going to be making a lot more noise about this. It is an approach that we are guaranteeing will drive delegate numbers."

According to Lalumière, the city currently is finalizing plans to expand its convention center, the Palais, and will make an official announcement in the coming months offering more details. The plan is to have that expansion completed by early 2025, which will add even more muscle to Montreal's appeal as a major meetings locus. "We want the convention center to be a destination onto itself -- not just a great design space, but a place that represents the energy of our city," Lalumière said.