18 NOV 2016:  Before the cold snap really hits, tourism representatives from Quebec would like to remind us how much fun there is exploring their winter wonderland. Picture a grand chateau overlooking the ice-fringed St. Lawrence River, frozen ponds turned into skating rinks, and the magic of freshly fallen snow blanketing cityscapes and countrysides.

Plus, it helps that the province’s largest city Montreal, will next year be celebrating a grand fête of 375 years.

Quebec tourism representatives from 10 regions recently networked with local media in Toronto, and showcased the best of their destinations. Also in attendance, was Leonora Moncada, the new marketing manager in Canada for Alliance de L’Industrie Touristique du Quebec (http://alliancetouristique.com/en/), a new private organization established in June that is responsible for la belle province’s marketing efforts.

The Quebec Ministry of Tourism, she said in a one on one with Travel Industry Today, is no longer handling the marketing efforts. “It’s no longer Quebec Tourism – it’s Quebec Alliance.”  

The Laval-based organization is comprised of all regions in the province including the regions respective partner associations, festivals, and local tourism offices.

“The purpose and the goal (of Quebec Alliance) is to gather knowledge and an understanding and to put a new way, an innovative way of selling the destination,” says Moncada who assumed her role in July, adding this network is to create a new way to sell Quebec and “to unify the voice of Quebec.”

“We are really focusing on inspiring the consumer and also to be very present in all social networks,” she said.

The organization will be responsible for marketing campaigns, and new digital social media strategies. Expect more coverage of a summer marketing campaign to be launched in March.

Now for a Quebec sampler.

Montreal

Festivals and events, no doubt, are in Montrealers’ DNA. Look no further than the hugely successful ‘Just for Laughs’, the Grand Prix, and the Montreal International Jazz Festival.

But come winter, it’s all about Igloofest, Fete des Neiges, an Ice Canoe Race, and a new one: Barbegazi –which means frozen beard like a lumber jack.

Clients can compete in this free crazy winter obstacle course race that combines snowball throwing, speed and even facing a yedi. “The organizers say it should take 1 minute where contestants can win prizes,” laughs Martine Venne, manager of media and the leisure market for Tourisme Montreal (http://www.mtl.org) about the downtown winter event happening January 6-8 and January 13-15, 2017.

For the 375th anniversary (http://www.375mtl.com/en/), the Jacques Cartier Bridge will be aglitter in LED lights in a fanciful lightfest created by Moment Factory. The local firm has been instrumental in showcasing huge installations worldwide from Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia in Barcelona to Madonna’s Superbowl show in Indianapolis. “These lights will become permanent, a part of a legacy project,” adds Venne on the grand spectacle.

On Victoria Day weekend (May 19-21, 2017) (http://www.375mtl.com/en/programming/les-geants-36/), a world of giants will overtake a secret location downtown. The street theatre company Royal de Luxe will provide the acrobats.

Watch for the Cite Memoire app, an app that projects 375 faces of characters from Montreal’s past around town. (http://www.montrealenhistoires.com/memory_city)

Leonard Cohen fans can brace themselves for an upcoming exhibition to commemorate the legacy of one of our national treasures whose passing has resonated worldwide.  

Expect a special exhibition at the Musee d’Art Contemporain titled, Leonard Cohen: Une brèche en toute chose / A Crack in Everything, an exhibition of international scope presented as part of the festivities for Montréal’s 375th anniversary scheduled November 9, 2017 through April 1, 2018.

Eastern Townships

This part of Quebec is an easy one-hour drive from Montreal and makes for a fabulous add-on to a big city itinerary.

It’s in the Eastern Townships, (http://www.easterntownships.org) as Danie Beliveau, media rep for Tourisme Cantons-de-l’Est, describes where clients can chill, relax and pamper themselves. “We have wineries, cheesemakers, and inns,” she says and adds, ice cider is popular as are cheesemakers like Fromagerie La Station in Compton and Fromagerie Nouvelle France in Racine where you can indulge in a short cheese factory tour.

For overnights, the room inventory runs from high-end and quaint to outdoorsy and rustic.  This year, Manoir Hovey (http://www.manoirhovey.com/en) has been blessed with two significant accolades: Conde Nast Traveler ranks the luxury lakeside resort as number one hotel in Canada as does Travel and Leisure Magazine. Clients, more inclined to embrace nature, can find the outdoor vibe in their choice of tree houses, treegloos, hutopias and the ecolodge known as a Troglo, a spectacular Hobbit-looking house.

Iles de la Madeleine

For an escape hatch, a trip to these windswept islands in the Gulf of St. Lawrence could be the answer. Once in the Isles de la Madeleine, (http://www.tourismeilesdelamadeleine.com/en/) don’t be surprised if you feel it’s another world.

Located roughly four hours by plane from Montreal, the islands, says Marie-Christine LeBlanc, marketing and communication agent of Tourisme Iles de la Madeleine, offer some of the finest outdoor activities. The other bonus: the remote location means you’re pretty much off-grid and offline. “We have Wi-Fi at the restaurants,” she laughs mentioning there are a handful of restaurants available.

For peak season head there between June and October but for off-season you’ll want to be there during a short two week window from February 26-March 11. “You have to go to the Gulf to see the seals,” she says of the wondrous harp seal sightings visible at that time.  

Hundreds of thousands of harp seals give birth on the ice floes around the Islands. For 2 or 3 weeks, you can observe the adult seals and their pups in their natural habitat.

Chateau Madelinot, a local operator, offers harp seal observation packages.

“There’s no bad weather only bad clothes,” she laughs on what to pack.




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Ilona Kauremszky

A regular contributor to Travel Industry Today, Ilona is a prize winning journalist whose writing pursuits have taken her around the globe.

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