Canada

'Revenge spending' to fuel travel rebound: Montreal tourism boss

“The last few months have been very dark, but thankfully we’re starting to see some light at the end of the tunnel.”

MONTREAL, QUE.: June 9, 2019 -- Racing Point BWT Mercedes driver Lance Stroll (18) of Canada during the Canadian Grand Prix at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal, on Sunday, June 9, 2019. (Allen McInnis / MONTREAL GAZETTE) ORG XMIT: 62678

“We think the revenge-spending aspect will be very strong in 2021,” Lalumière said. “People were forced to save during confinement because, in many cases, there was nothing for them to do. Maybe they renovated their house and they accumulated loyalty points on their credit card. So there’s a number of positive factors for the summer that perhaps people are underestimating.”

Recent breakthroughs in the development of COVID-19 vaccines and rapid tests, as well as rising savings rates in Canada and the U.S., are among the factors fuelling Lalumière’s optimism.

Moncef Slaoui, who heads the U.S. COVID-19 vaccine program, said this month that the first Americans could start receiving a coronavirus vaccine as soon as mid-December. Herd immunity could be reached by May, he added.

Aéroports de Montréal is “actively” working on offering departing passengers a rapid COVID-19 test, ADM vice-president Martin Massé said Friday. Details on a possible rollout could be announced shortly, Massé said during an online conference hosted by the Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal.

Montreal will continue to market itself as a “playground city” with three key attributes — friendly locals, a broad range of festivals and a plethora of restaurants, Lalumière said. Tourisme Montréal will be ready to launch ad campaigns across North America in March or April, he added.

The expected rebound in tourism can’t come soon enough for Montreal’s beleaguered hotel operators.

Local hotels will probably be about 10 per cent full on average in the fourth quarter of 2020, and occupancy rates are unlikely to improve much before April, according to Eve Paré, head of the Association of Greater Montreal Hotels.

About 8,000 Montreal hotel rooms closed at the start of the pandemic, representing about 41 per cent of the city’s capacity — though subsequent reopenings have brought that number to “a few hundred rooms,” Paré said in a phone interview Friday.

“We’ve not had any major casualties, but many hotel companies have seen their financial situation greatly weakened by the pandemic,” Paré said.

Merchants and hotel operators can look forward to a probable return of the Canadian Grand Prix next year. Formula One organizers have included the Montreal race on their provisional 2021 calendar, with the event set to take place June 13. This year’s edition was cancelled due to the pandemic.

There is one potential problem, however: next year’s F1 calendar includes a race in Baku, Azerbaijan on June 6 — one week before Montreal.

Montreal is aiming to tap pent-up demand among Canadian, U.S. and international tourists next year as mass COVID-19 vaccination campaigns allow people to resume travelling in greater numbers.

Quebec’s biggest city may draw 3.5 million to four million tourists in 2021 amid an expected rebound in both leisure and business travel, Tourisme Montréal president Yves Lalumière said Friday. While the 2021 target pales in comparison to last year’s total of 11 million out-of-town visitors, it would represent a significant increase from the 2020 estimate of about one million, he said.

“The last few months have been very dark, but thankfully we’re starting to see some light at the end of the tunnel,” Lalumière told the Montreal Gazette by phone. “Now we know that we have about four difficult months ahead. When the pandemic started, we had zero visibility. So it’s a little bit easier now.”

After months of health-related restrictions and outright lockdowns, tourism industry executives predict consumers will be eager to start criss-crossing the globe once again as soon as governments relax travel protocols.

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