09 FEB 2010: Remember last week when the local media was battling Snowmaggadeon? Perhaps your clients were rushing to the phone panicked. While many of us were caught up in the beguiling winter forecast, our province’s easterly neighbour Quebec was sending out warm welcomes at the Fairmont Royal York.

After all, snow to Quebec is what Ginger Rogers is to Fred Astaire. So as Toronto whined, Quebec Tourism threw a Quebec Day. The annual gathering involving 100 plus industry partners drew a large crowd of agents and meeting planners who were discussing everything Quebec bien sûr.

Here’s a glance at a couple of our favourite cities. The rest you’ll just have to discover for yourself.

Montreal kisses

Montreal continues to be top of mind among business travellers. James Kozukan, manager for convention and sporting events sales, notes how this culturally-rich island hub remains a significant domestic market while on the international market, “We are still first in Canada as a destination of choice for international conventions.”

Breakfast in bed is a popular long-running programme the CVB offers at various conventions it attends like Meeting Professionals International (MPI.)

Now I’ve never been to a breakfast-in-bed meeting but if it’s anything like the legendary Yoko Ono and John Lennon bed-in which was staged at the posh Fairmont Queen Elizabeth in 1969, I’m picturing a few lights, cameras and some action.

“No not at all,” says James. “It’s really low key. You sign up. We arrive between 6 and 7am, there’s a breakfast tray with maybe a rose.” That’s it - so easy. No business, just pleasure.

That’s what continues to amaze clients about business in Montreal. It’s a city constantly evolving, and pushing the envelope. “Montreal is a work in progress. We never take anything for granted,” he reflects.

But the city makes you feel at home too. James understands the competitive meetings market and says their corporate team finds the best question is, “How can we help you?”

For 2011, agents can expect the return of popular sell-out festivals like Just for Laughs, the Montreal Jazz Festival and the much anticipated return of the F1 Grand Prix which made its comeback in 2010. The internationally renowned sporting event was missed in 2009 but last year, James describes the swelling crowd as something you have to see for yourself.

“Just to give you an idea on the impact of the Grand Prix, there was this restaurateur who says the volume of sales he does in January and February equals one week of the Grand Prix,” he explains. “We’re thrilled to have them back.”

The Jewel of Quebec: Quebec City

The Québec Winter Carnival’s iconic Bonhomme is waving his fuzzy white paw as this story goes online. The annual winter festival now in its 57th year concludes this weekend and the revellers are expecting lots. Watch for a night parade in haute ville (upper town) where 100,000 Carnival fans are expected. There will be marching bands, costumed performers with plenty of whimsy attached as Bonhomme makes his final departure on Sunday. The spectacular snow sculpture competition will be judged among an array of other activities.

On the group booking side, the Quebec City Convention Centre’s most successful year was 2008 when La Belle Ville hosted 17 international conventions. “We are going to try to top this of course,” smiles Lynn Chiasson, sales manager with the Quebec City Convention Centre.

The cruise market continues to play a huge role in Quebec City too. During this past year the CVB hired a cruise specialist whose job is solely to focus on the cruise market.

Expect to learn about the headliners for the blockbuster Quebec Summer Festival any day. This year’s festival runs July 7 -17, 2011. The summer I attended the festival, Sting was the big buzz with an over-capacity crowd storming the Plains of Abraham, the concert’s main stage setting. Last year The Black Eyed Peas, Rush and Iron Maiden were there.

Hmm… who will be headlining 2011?

Let me know.

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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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