Tourisme Montréal celebrates its 100th anniversary!
By Isa Tousignant
With Tourisme Montréal turning 100 this year, we’ve been pouring over some of our historical successes. It’s evidently been a good century for Montréal tourism, with great things to come in the near future – and we’ve had the meetings and conventions market to thank for that since the very start.
Uniquely welcoming since 1919
Born as the Tourist Bureau of Montreal on October 8, 1919, Tourisme Montréal is one of the oldest conventions-and-visitors bureaus in North America – and it has always put the meetings and conventions market at the heart of its priorities. That became clear in 1924 as our name changed to the Montreal Tourist and Convention Bureau, in line with a broader effort to boost business travel to the city. (It was the first of many name changes, as you’ll see!) Montréal was then promoted with slogans like “Cosmopolitan Montreal” and “Abroad Without Crossing the Sea,” in reference to its unique ability to mix North American modernity with European charm.
Cultivating the postwar boom
Despite the devastation of the Second World War, 1941 was marked by a glimmer of light for Montrealers because it marked the inauguration of what we now know as the Montréal-Trudeau Airport. It opened the city onto the world, allowing easy access to exciting new tourism and business markets. Montréal got its first convention centre soon after, in 1944, and by 1949 was experiencing a bona fide tourism boom: the city welcomed a record-breaking 1 million visitors that year. By the 1950s the always-excellent hospitality industry was back at the top of its game, as evidenced by the opening of the Fairmont Queen Elizabeth in 1958, the largest hotel in the city at over a thousand rooms. Tourisme Montréal’s ties to the hotel industry run deep – two of our founding partners 100 years ago included the Windsor Hotel and the Ritz-Carlton.
Swinging through the 60s and beyond
In 1961 came the second name change: to reflect a change of focus onto business tourism, the Montreal Tourist and Convention Bureau became the Montreal Convention and Visitors Bureau. In 1964, the organization’s president set up a committee tasked with increasing the promotion of Montréal on the conventions and meetings market. The following year, Montréal welcomed 67,545 delegates attending 161 different conventions! The city really anchored itself as an international destination with the ground-breaking events Expo 67 and, just shy of a decade later, the 1976 Olympics. They were the start of a now-long tradition of large-scale events that has helped make Montréal an undeniable international leader in cultural offerings. We are, indeed, the City of Festivals.
Hosting unconventional conventions
In 1982, the Montreal Convention and Visitors Bureau became the Greater Montréal Convention and Tourism Bureau. It would play a key role in the construction of the Palais des Congrès convention centre the following year, a glimmering new home for the meetings and conventions industry – and a cornerstone for Tourisme Montréal ever since. Refurbished in 2002 into the colourful landmark we know today, the Palais des Congrès has hosted over 20 million attendees and generated over $6 billion since its inauguration. In spite of the ups and downs of the global economy, Montréal attracted over 7 million tourists between 1997 and 2005, achieving the best performance in the industry in Canada. The promotional message for the conventions market was “Montréal, a Convention City. Not a Conventional City.”
Funding greater initiatives
It’s in 1998 that the Greater Montréal Convention and Tourism Bureau would finally change its name to Tourisme Montréal – and that one stuck. With the introduction of the accommodation tax in 1997 (a 3% tax applied to every hotel stay in the city that fuels Tourisme Montréal’s activities), the organization now had the resources to intensify promotional efforts, which helped make Montréal North America’s second-biggest destination in the international conventions market. It’s an infinitely rich city, in terms of promotional angles – in recent years Tourisme Montréal has focused on sharing its one-of-a-kind selling points, from its music scene to its world-class gastronomic offer, to great effect.
Future thinking – and celebrating!
In 2013 Montréal hosted more conventions than any other Canadian city. Between 2015 and 2017, the number of tourists visiting Montréal rose from 9.6 million to just over 11 million, a new record. Our offer continues to grow, as does our expertise. Today, Tourisme Montréal counts 1,000 member organizations and partners, and 100 dedicated employees working to promote our city-sized playground. As Tourisme Montréal celebrates its 100th anniversary, it remains steadfast in its belief that Montréal is not only the gateway to Quebec, but on its way to becoming one of North America’s leading meetings and conventions destinations.
Read this next: Montréal is a music city