5 Questions with Yves Lalumiére, President and Chief Executive Officer, Tourisme Montréal
1. What is the current state of tourism in Montreal?
Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic hit Montréal in mid-March and, for the first time in a long time, tourism was drastically put on hold following the adoption by governments of various rules and measures to control the situation.
All sectors of the tourism industry have been severely impacted (hotels, restaurants, cultural attractions, etc.).
Last month (June), Canadian and local health authorities have gradually started to give the green light to reopening most of the city’s public spaces and businesses, to the delight of citizens and visitors, but some social distancing measures are still in place.
Aside from festivals and large gatherings, which remain prohibited, Montreal has resumed its summer activities.
As for tourists, with land borders still closed to all foreign nationals and a mandatory isolation of 14 days for anyone (citizens included) entering the country, by air, land, rail or sea, there are close to no international and national tourists. Although we see that Ontarians are slowly starting back to visit Montreal, the streets, parks and attractions of the city are mostly enjoyed by Montrealers.
2. This is the normally busy summer tourism season. When do you think the city could see a rebound?
In such time, when the pandemic situation is still monitored closely by the public authorities and measures are being adjusted, it is hard to predict any tendencies of a rebound or growth in the number of regional, national and even international tourists and visitors.
Our strategy remains to be flexible and focus on the local tourists – the Greater Montreal area – for the moment. Of course, we are also working on initiatives and campaign for regional tourists and visitors, as this will be the second phase of tourism this year. But the feeling remains that we are not there yet: Quebecers and Ontarians are still preferring the smaller regions for their vacations. However, we remain positive that the city will attract visitors and tourists in the second part of the summer and in the fall season. Montréal is reinventing itself to better address future traveller needs.
Montréal is a creative playground, and continuously reinventing ourselves is part of our DNA. Our focus will continue to be on showcasing our creativity, openness and playfulness. Even in the current context, this positioning remains relevant to future travellers.
3. How difficult is it for the city to attract visitors now that the federal government has closed the border?
It is important to clarify this statement. Land borders remain closed for foreign nationals, but it is still possible to enter the country by air. However, anyone entering the country must go into a 14-day quarantine/isolation period as a safety measure.
This measure is obviously a deterrent for tourists and visitors from outside the country, but our priority remains everyone’s health and safety. Right now, our main target is the local and regional tourists and they are not affected by this decision.
4. Are there any incentives for visiting Montreal now or anytime soon?
Certainly, and we are just starting. Tourisme Montreal has just launched its first summer campaign ever for Montrealers to highlight the reopening of our city and its impressive resilience. We are inviting citizens to become tourists in their own city and discover or rediscover its many attractions and the packages that have been introduced not only to perk us up after months of confinement, but support our business owners, restaurants, hotels who’ve been hit hard by COVID-19.
Tourisme Montréal has also taken advantage of this summer launch to remind Montrealers and all Quebecers that its website – https://www.mtl.org/en – is the leading digital platform to discover what’s going on, unearth best-kept secrets in its neighbourhoods, organize theme tours or take advantage of all kinds of rebates.
To encourage citizens and visitors to get reacquainted with the city and promote Montréal businesses and attractions, Tourisme Montréal has adapted its Passeport MTL to local and regional tourists.
The city pass can be purchased right now at a promotional cost of $57 to have access to a selection of 5 attractions. Passeport MTL also gives rebates of 15% to 25% off many other activities. To learn more, go to https://passeport.mtl.org/.
In addition, Tourisme Montréal invites everyone to check out its website for unbeatable offers and packages at Montréal hotels, restaurants, spas and attractions soon to be featured: a one-of-a-kind movie night at the pool of the Hôtel Bonaventure, a celebration evening at the Four Seasons Hôtel Montréal that includes a bottle of champagne and sweets, a couples’ or family night at Hôtel Nelligan that includes dinner on its private terrace or even a private picnic on the terrace of the Château Ramezay.
5. Do you think visiting the city remains enjoyable given social the requirements that have been put in place to deal with coronavirus?
Absolutely. We believe that these measures are fairly simple to adapt to and do not deteriorate the experience. Also, we have to keep in mind that most of them are temporary.
In every crisis, there is a silver lining. We feel that travel will become more meaningful. Travellers will want to immerse themselves in the local cultures, they will want to share, they will want to be part of the community and truly live amongst locals.
We hope that they will want to spend more time in each destination. We also expect to see a focus on wellness and an appetite for fun physical activities and enriching personal development experiences.
Now, more than ever, it will be important to foster a harmonious relationship between visitors and locals.