Montreal targeting Canadian tourists as U.S. border crossings remain closed

In a bid to rebound from a tumultuous 15 months, the City of Montreal unveiled an ambitious plan to relaunch its tourism industry that will focus more on Canadian tourists than international ones.

With the Canada-U.S. border closed to non-essential travel until at least July 21, Montreal hopes to attract tourists from places like Ontario and elsewhere in Canada to bring the tourism sector back to life after being hit hard by the pandemic.

About half of the tourism dollars that flow into Montreal come from American tourists, so even though Quebec is entering the green alert zone on Monday with fewer COVID-19 restrictions, Tourism Montreal said it has to shift its campaign for 2021. 

But, its president and CEO, Yves Lalumière, said the city desperately needs those dollars from family vacations and is hoping he can attract a wider audience to the island this summer.

“All we’re asking for is for the Americans, the French people, the G7 to come in if they’re fully vaccinated and I think that’s a very reasonable request,” he said at a news conference Wednesday.

One of the ways the city plans to support local businesses is to pump more than $1 million into campaigns promoting Montreal’s culinary scene.

It also will launch MTLàTABLE, “an extraordinary initiative to encourage Quebecers to discover new addresses and travel through the lively and gourmet neighbourhoods of Montréal,” the city said in a news release.

“The Tourisme Montréal campaign, to which the city is contributing, will highlight the creativity and diversity of the dishes offered by our chefs, for which our city is famous,” Plante said in the release.

Part of the program also includes a rewards system where customers can collect points at select restaurants for a chance to win SAQ gift cards, gift certificates, and other prizes.

Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante also said she doesn’t believe the construction on the island will be a deterrent to tourists, telling reporters at the news conference she was in Toronto recently there was just as much construction, which didn’t stop her from going there.

Plante insisted it comes down to promoting public transit to tourists to get around during the summer months.

With files from CTV News Montreal's Stéphane Giroux

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