DJ tunes and cannabis smoke drifted over a bundled-up crowd celebrating the year Montreal in light winter party. Daredevils in hockey skates raced between French and English canood couples. It was a very Canadian evening.
“I think we’ve finally turned the corner,” said Yves Lalumière, President and CEO of Tourism Montreal. “Everyone is working hard now. Every reservation is important.
Recovery has been slow. Hotel occupancy in February was just 33.1%, according to preliminary results from global hotel data and analytics firm STR, compared with 62.1% for the same month in 2020. For two years, tourist festivals in Montreal have been reduced or completely canceled. When they return in 2022, Lalumière wants the world to be with them.
The circus is serious business in the city. “Montreal is dubbed the home of the new circus,” said trapeze artist Guillaume Blais, co-founder of the nonprofit Circus The monastery. “Not only do we do acrobatics and flexibility, but almost all the artists do theatre, dance, music. It’s very versatile. Some circus performers and technicians have left the profession amid the pandemic, Blais said, but those who remain are eager to perform.
New additions also abound on Montreal’s thriving digital art scene. With three galleries and two light exhibits, the 21,000 square feet Immersion Oasis digital art museum opened its doors in February 2021 on the ground floor of the Palais des Congrès. The current show, “Recharge/Relax”, runs until April 18. Inside, “Floralia” by Canadian artist Sabrina Ratté imagines a futuristic archive of extinct plant species; Maotik’s interactive “Flow” is inspired by fluctuating tides.
Featuring kinetic laser installations, Japanese artist Shohei Fujimoto’s exhibition “Intangible formsruns until April 10 at the converted Griffintown coal-fired power plant New city gas. In 2021, the association 0x Company opened Canada’s first non-fungible digital art gallery, or NFT, on the ground floor of New City Gas, with free tickets available online. (Private 45-minute tours are also free and especially helpful for the “What’s an NFT?” crowd.) Outside the building, visitors wander through a maze-like outdoor installation by gallery owners. Post 16whose recent ventures include a Westmount gallery and a NFT Project of its own.
Ask Montrealers about the city’s creative history and you’ll quickly come to Expo 67: The legacy of the World’s Fair can be seen throughout the city, including the geodesic dome designed by Buckminster Fuller the Biosphere and community of brutalist models Housing 67. A 614-room hotel was also built for the exhibition Marriott Chateau Champlain, whose 38-story grid of arched windows offers beautiful — and subtly fish-eyed — views of downtown. (It’s called “the cheese grater”, because these windows look ready to grate cheese.) Sleek renovations completed in 2021 respectfully modernize the 1960s interior, with playful nods to the original designs of Quebec architects Roger D’Astous and Jean-Paul Pothier.
New for June 2021 is room 193 Hotel Humaniti Montreal, presented as an “intelligent vertical community” for the integration of residential units, hotel rooms, commercial spaces and restaurants. Artwork is scattered throughout the downtown property; Stop in the outdoor courtyard to see “H Anima” in bronze and aluminum by artist Marc Séguin. Trendy short-term rental provider probe added 251 units in Montreal since March 2020, including a location of 53 units in the eternally cool neighborhood of Plateau Mont-Royal.
As spring dawns, hopes are high for the recovery of Montreal’s battered hotel industry. The city is open, the border too. Now many are betting that American tourists are ready to cross again.
Prospective travelers should consider local and national public health guidelines regarding the pandemic before planning any travel. Information on travel health advice can be found on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s interactive map showing travel recommendations by destination and the CDCs travel health advice webpage.