Saturday, November 25th 2017.

Destinations

Bruce Taylor
QUEBEC - A BIG TOUCH OF ‘JE NE SAIS QUOI’

 

By Bruce Taylor

 

 

bon matin bon matin

BON MATIN!

From surreal Belgium we travel with Air Canada to surreal Quebec where one of the biggest export industries is entertainment - comedy, music and the Cirque du Soleil. No wonder Quebec is so vibrant, entertaining and hospitable.

Quebec is Canada on a human scale. It’s not big US style cities in the middle of vast wildernesses. People smile, talk to you and welcome you to Canada.

It’s like travelling back 400 years in time to a France which has developed independently before fast forwarding again to the new world. The big advantage is that it has not been americanised and has retained its own clear identity and authenticity. And Montreal & Quebec City must certainly rank as the most European of all North America’s cities.

 

bon matin bon matin
bon matin bon matin

 

The language has also developed in its own original way and has some lovely touches like ‘Bon matin!’ for good morning. ‘Bonjour’ is used for goodbye. Say ‘merci’ and the immediate response is ‘bienvenue’, North American-style ‘you’re welcome’. When I heard we had some time for ‘magasinage’, I honestly thought it was something to do with buying magazines, not the simple and attractive expression for shopping. And it`s important to remember ‘déjeuner’ is breakfast; ‘dîner’ is lunch and dinner is ‘souper’. So, if you’re a French speaker, you have to understand that it’s you who speaks differently, not the ‘quebécois’.

Like Canada itself much of the food is fusion with healthy natural ingredients. If you’re looking for something new, different and innovative, READ ON……….

AIR CANADA NOUVEAU….

The new direct daily flight from Brussels to Montreal and beyond started in June. In July a small group of incentive travel houses, together with BBT Online as the exclusive media, were given the opportunity to try out the new service and spend 4 motivational days in Quebec.

The Air Canada version of the new Boeing 767-300 is an impressive one, with 187 seats in Economy and 23 in Executive First.  I was fortunate to have the opportunity to try out both.

First-hand Executive First experience
In Executive First, I felt like a cross between a wide-eyed school boy faced with a new toy and a country farmer on a day out in the big city. Everything is so sophisticated you need a guide to know how your seat works, but there is one and it’s completely visual and idiot-proof like an Ikea instruction manual.

Executive First reminds me of a space ship. The seat configuration is original and all the seats are set diagonally to the aisles, so you have no-one sitting directly next to you. Thanks to the small partitions you get the benefit of privacy and even soundproofing. Space and comfort are key and the seat converts into a full size bed in which you really can sleep. But if you’re not tired, the entertainment centre will keep you happy for hours. Waiting on the tarmac for over an hour for a take-off slot was almost a pleasure.

There’s something deliciously sinful about being welcomed onto a plane at ten in the morning with a glass of champagne. The service was down-to-earth and friendly, and the cabin crew made you feel genuinely welcome and well-looked after. The food and the little extras which take so much of the pain out of air travel were needless-to-say excellent.

It was real white space for 8 hours – no phones, no texts, no emails, no twittering and no human contact, unless you wanted it. There was time to think, write notes, catch up with business reading and sleep properly….

Human ROI
No wonder Executive First was full and there were all sorts - business people in suits, couples and relaxed types in jeans. When will corporates wake up and realise that on 8 hour flights like this, it is a false economy not to put executives in business class, even during a recession? Just look at the human and financial ROI. Someone who travels Executive First can and should be expected to do 2-3 hours work on the flight. On the Outward trip they will arrive at midday rested, alert and in time & in shape to do half a day’s serious business. On the return leg they can sleep a full night and be in the office the next morning with a minimum of jetlag damage.

Economic Economy
Economy is indeed value-for-money. There’s more legroom than you normally get, good entertainment and the food’s fine, but I did find it hard to work the day we arrived back in Brussels.

MAGICAL MONTREAL

The first thing you notice is that Montreal is compact and it takes just 20 minutes from Trudeau Airport to the city centre.

Montreal is a young, relaxed and sunny city. It’s a mini-Manhattan, but again on a human scale. It’s also a residential city and a safe one where people still live in the centre.

A fun comedy cooking class at ‘la Guilde Culinaire’ kept us alive on our first evening despite the 7 hour time difference. Amazingly we turned out a menu ‘d’inspiration quebécoise’, although admittedly with a little help from our chefs. It was a great way to keep us all awake and a good teambuilding icebreaker after the long flight.

 

Montreal Montreal
Montreal Montreal
Montreal Montreal
Montreal Montreal
Montreal Montreal

 

Next morning found us bright and early in Mount-Royal Park for an alfresco picnic breakfast, enjoying the sunshine and watching runners, cyclists, dog-owners and tai-chi addicts enjoying their morning exercise.

Then we walked and walked around Vieux Montreal and the port area - visiting hotels & restaurants, and competing in 2 teams in a rally, on foot and by Metro, taking in the beautiful neo-gothic Notre Dame Cathedral, the business district, the ice hockey stadium….. Ice hockey is a local passion and a must for inclusion in any incentive programme (season from September to May).

From Montreal Via Rail Canada took us in comfort to Quebec City in just over 3 hours with drinks & dinner included, as well as entertainment from the welcoming onboard crew.

QUINTESSENTIAL QUEBEC

Founded in 1608, Quebec City is the cradle of French civilisation in North America and North America’s only fortified city north of Mexico. It’s a city of charm and history, designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site like Bordeaux, its twin city in France. Currently Quebec has 630.000 inhabitants. Its main industries are the civil service (60.000 employees), insurance and tourism, although high-tech, bio-tech and other Laval University specialisations are growing fast and furiously.

 

quintessential quintessential quintessential

 

One of Quebec’s USPs for meetings and incentives is that it’s another completely safe city. And there´s always something going on – festivals, music, comedy….it’s a vibrant and dynamic year-round city despite its arctic winter and sub-zero temperatures. In February there’s a big Carnival which is followed by the mad Red Bull Crushed Ice Race. Just Google it and watch these suicidal maniacs skating down a vertical hill in Vieux Quebec with scant regard for life or limb.

Like Montreal it’s a city for walking with history at the turn of every corner in  the old town. And they both have the St. Lawrence River in common. The nightlife is also great, according to a couple of members of our group who shall remain nameless, but were still alive at the end of a long day.

And outside the city l’Ile d’Orléans is a great place for a picnic with stunning views of the city from the St. Lawrence. You can hire sailing boats for groups of 20. Opposite the island are the impressive Montmorency Falls. At 83m, they are one and a half times higher than Niagara Falls.

Quebec is just 250kms from Montreal and Air Canada operates 16 flights a day, so it’s easy to combine the two cities by both air and rail.

quintessential quintessential
quintessential quintessential
quintessential quintessential

 

HOTELS AGOGO

During our too short 4 day stay, we experienced 15 different hotels. The two cities have a magnificent selection – hotels at the waterfront, castle hotels, conference hotels, skyscraper hotels, design hotels, boutique hotels……

In Montreal
We stayed in the Hilton Montréal Bonaventure, an urban resort in the centre built around a terrace with a large pool, with 5000m2 of meeting space comprising 35 rooms and connected underground to the main Congress Centre.
We also visited the Opus Montreal (design hotel with 136 rooms); Hotel Place d’Armes (more traditional and right in the centre with 135 rooms in 2 adjacent buildings); Hotel Nelligan (a trendy complex of hotel & restaurants with character and 105 rooms spread over 3 restored buildings); and Hotel Saint-Paul (chic design and trendy local meeting point with 120 rooms and 4 high-tech meeting rooms).

And in innovative Montreal we discovered, many of us for the first time, ‘intimacy kits’, on sale in the bedrooms, price 7$.

In Quebec City
hotelsIn Québec City we stayed 2 nights at the Hôtel Château Laurier, an award winning independent hotel next to the ‘Grande Allée’ with 200 rooms, 16 meeting rooms and its own catering company for business events.

We had breakfast in the Hôtel Manoir Victoria (in Vieux Québec 156 rooms and meeting space for up to 175 people); we had lunch at Le Manoir Montmorency (7 banqueting rooms for up to 200)  with a spectacular view over the Falls; we ate a late but delicious dinner on the 22nd floor of the Hilton Québec (571 rooms and events for up to 2000)) overlooking the sparkling city lights; we went for an early brunch in the magnificent revolving restaurant at the Hôtel Loews Le Concorde (406 rooms with a view) for a birds-eye glimpse of daytime Québec; we visited Hôtel 71 (40 rooms) in the Vieux-Port area.

I am not sure whether Relais & Châteaux’s Auberge Saint-Antoine (95 rooms) is a museum-within-a-hotel or a hotel-within-a-museum, but it’s certainly striking with its colourful and contrasting interior designs. It is also famed for being the best restaurant in the city.

Another hotel-museum of a completely different kind is the Hôtel Musée des Premières Nations (55 rooms and offering snow scooters in winter) in the American-Indian reserve of Wendake, 15 minutes north of the city.

Fairmont Le Château Frontenac (618 rooms) deserves a separate mention. More than just an impressive hotel, it’s a symbol of Quebec City and a historic monument. We experienced one of the most original hotel tours ever with a lady from the 1920’s.

As Dries Jacobus (Borealis) put it so clearly: “I must have seen 1000 hotels and this is by far the best hotel inspection I have ever experienced – the idea, the character and the way it’s done. It’s original and interactive.” More hotels should look at how to make similar impact out of their inspection tours using theatre, comedy and new communication techniques.

THE GREAT OUTDOORS

 2 hours north-east of Quebec City by road (or you can also charter a hydroplane) and you’re in a difference world. Charlevoix is the oldest tourism region in Canada and is well known for outdoor adventure, especially in winter with its combination of river and mountain activities. It’s ideal snow scooter country with over 4000 kms of tracks.

We tried out 2 summer activities. At Saint-Irénée we had an entertaining introduction to sea-kayaking with two fun guides from Katabatik. I must say I had never realised how heavy a canoe was and we all looked the height of fashion in our kayaking gear!

 

outdoor outdoor
outdoor outdoor
outdoor outdoor
outdoor outdoor

 

At the Baie Sainte-Catherine we took a Croisières AML zodiac (25 pax) and went whale watching. We had two hours of child-like excitement spotting, following at a distance and watching beluga whales glide through the water, dive, disappear and reappear far away with such effortless elegance.  A ‘must do’ experience…The season is long, starting mid May and running until mid October.

The 5* Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu (405 rooms) is a destination in its own right. It was entirely renovated just over 10 years ago. Its setting between river and mountains is spectacular, as are the views from the rooms. The hotel has every possible facility including a spa with 23 treatment rooms; 3 swimming pools; multi activities in both summer and winter with all the necessary equipment. And their snow scooters go where no other transport dares….

SO IN SHORT, WHY QUEBEC?

in shortBBT Online asked Destination Québec’s André Martel to give us 5 reasons to organise motivational programmes in Quebec.
  1. Accessibility with direct flights to Montreal and Quebec City.
  2. The combination of big city and great outdoors.
  3. Good quality/price ratio.
  4. The legendary hospitality of the ‘Quebécois’.
  5. The variety of accommodation.

For conferences he also highlights the Palais des Congrès in Montreal and Quebec’s Centre des Congrès. Both are outstanding modern venues in the city centre within walking distance of the major hotels. André adds “Quebec’s real USP for Europeans is the professionalism and American-style knowhow, combined with a European culture and a French flavour”.

 

SO, WHY AIR CANADA?

whyWe also talked to Air Canada Sales Manager, Gina Verkouter, who was over the moon with her new direct daily flight Brussels-Montreal. We asked her for 5 reasons to choose Air Canada.
  1. 24 flights a day from Europe – Brussels, London, Frankfurt, Munich, Zurich - to brilliant destinations in Canada with a good number of seats available for the price conscious traveller.
  2. Our new Executive First – a first class cabin at business class prices, and with privacy.
  3. Good Economy product, known for extra leg space. We were again named Best North American Airline by SkyTrax.
  4. The Air Canada network with its 4 hubs in Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver & Calgary. We serve 65 destinations in Canada, in fact everywhere there’s an airport. Another great advantage if you’re going to the US is that you clear customs & immigration in Montreal and stay in transit.

    With our A++ North American joint venture with United, Continental & Lufthansa we have excellent onward connections to the US West Coast and year round to the Caribbean. And of course, Air Canada is a founder member of StarAlliance.
  5. Experienced cabin crew – good information from pilots and crew.

In Gina Verkouter’s view Canada is somewhere you have to visit separately from the USA. “It’s an ideal incentive destination which has to be put on the Belgian map. This will be my main focus over the next year, as well as corporate travel and convincing business clients they need to take Executive First.”

She adds a tip for Quebec, “The traditional Indian summer in last week September/1st week October is breathtakingly beautiful – a great time for incentives.”

why

WHAT THE INCENTIVE PROFESSIONALS SAY

Marianne Impens“This was my first time, although I already knew it was great. Our department had 6 different projects here when I was with Thomas Cook. Now I hope to sell it as a new destination. All the time I have been trying to imagine it in winter – there must be such an amazing difference”.

Marianne Impens, Mi-Agency

Dirk Wolput
“The direct flight opens new opportunities and is a great asset for getting people to Quebec. 2 great cities with possibilities for small group extensions to Charlevoix by hydroplane. For larger groups there are endless possibilities, depending on size and of course budget”.

Dirk Wolput, Destination Unlimited


Catherine Blanc“Quebec meets expectations but is very different according to the season. In autumn and spring you’re more of a spectator. In winter it’s more active and an alternative to Lapland – in short, a destination you can sell several times to the same client.”

Catherine Blanc, Carlson WagonLit

Dominique Vermeirsch
“Quebec has Indian summer and winter potential as an alternative to Scandinavia.”

Dominique Vermeirsch, Master Events


Claire Gennart“I like the Quebecois mentality and the hospitality is really warm and sincere. They’re genuine and want to help you without any ulterior motives….”

Claire Gennart, Thomas Cook


Dries Jacobus“Quebec City and nature is a magic formula. The big advantage is that Quebec is not americanised – it has its own identity and authenticity. It also has a magnificent selection of hotels and there’s something for everyone. Vibrant cities, especially at night…”

Dries Jacobus, Borealis Incentives

 

THE IDEAL INCENTIVE

As we sat at Quebec’s Jean-Lesage international Airport awaiting our return connection, a small group of us brainstormed on what would be an ideal Quebec incentive. Here’s the briefest of summaries:

When?   In winter (but also autumn & spring).
Where? Montreal + Sakacoumi (4 nights).
or Quebec City + Charlevoix (4 nights).
or Montreal (1 night) + Charlevoix (2 nights) + Quebec City (2 nights) = 5 nights.

What?
‘Vibrant city plus great outdoors’ combination with a good choice of alternative activities. Use original city venues like the Acrobats School in an old Quebec church and  create events in which you can participate. Experience the underground cities.
How?   By Air Canada, of course…and by working with creative DMCs like JPdL Vitamine or Zeste Incentive on the ground in Quebec.

WANT TO KNOW MORE?

Here are your main meetings, incentive & corporate travel contacts for Quebec:

Air Canada
Gina Verkouter
Gina.Verkouter@aircanada.nl
www.aircanada.com

Destination Quebec, Paris
andre.martel@destinationquebec.fr
www.bonjourquebec.com

Tourisme Montréal
Lydna Cadieux
cadieux.lynda@tourisme-montreal.org
www.tourisme-montreal.org

Office du tourisme Québec
Suzanne Roy
suzanne.roy@quebecregion.com
www.quebecregion.com

Tourisme Charlevoix
François Gariépy
francois.gariepy@tourisme-charlevoix.com
www.tourisme-charlevoix.com

Via Rail Canada
Karin Gomes-Caron
Marketing Represenative (Europe)
karin.gomes@insidetravelnews.nl

QUEBEC IS COMING TO TOWN

On 24 November Tourism Quebec will be in Brussels. They are organising a major workshop, jointly with Air Canada, at the Crowne Plaza (Brussels Airport) with 20 suppliers from Quebec including the regions, hotels, DMCs…

More info  andre.martel@destinationquebec.fr

….. AND SO IS MONTREAL
Montreal will also be in the Brussels village the month before on Monday, 4 October to host a special event at an original venue, the Zein Oriental Spa.  “A great opportunity to get pampered and to meet your peers & our Montreal partners (Hotels, Palais des Congrès…)”, says Montreal’s irrepressible Lynda Cadieux.

BBT ONLINE THANKS…………….

…Air Canada & Destination Québec.
…..the tourism offices of Montreal, Quebec & Charlevoix.
……..and all the many commercial partners throughout Quebec who supported this motivational programme for motivators, demonstrated their professionalism and communicated their infectious enthusiasm for their products & services.

 

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