Meetings Today recently flew up to Montreal, To- ronto and Vancouver to further understand how these destinations are relating as new members
of the Marriott Convention & Resort Network (CRN).
We discovered that instead of certain properties
competing for the same meetings business, these
convention-centric hotels now collaborate with each
other to keep business in the network and make it
easier for groups to plan multiple years’ worth of annual meetings at once. A customer can thus transfer
his or her group’s information and their post-conven-tion report, essentially handing off the whole shebang
to the next destination.
“As groups move across Canada, one year they
could have a meeting in Montreal and the next in To-
ronto, and the very next in Vancouver, and stay within
the CRN,” said Marriott CRN Director Todd Sherstad.
“And the national salesperson could book that meet-
ing for that customer for three years, multi-years, and
In each locale, food tours and/or street art proved
logical additions to corporate group travel, as the
sights and flavors of the Great White North contribute
greatly to any group business.
U.S. groups that haven’t met in Montreal often incorrectly assume the culture is only French. Not true.
Every Southern European ethnicity or nationality also
commands a presence here. Many Greeks, Italians,
Spanish, Portuguese and even a huge North African
contingent all contribute to the cuisine of the city. And
in pure European fashion, business travel mingles
freely with an authentic cuisine scene and colorful
At Le Centre Sheraton Montreal, we saw firsthand
how planners can utilize the food culture of the city
for a uniquely Montreal experience. Montrealers claim
their bagels are far superior to those in New York
City—fighting words, we know—but regardless, two
local bagel shops, St-Viateur and Fairmount, supplied
their goods for a private function and we were challenged to vote on which one we thought was best.
Bagels and salmon then filled us up for the morning,
fueling our next adventures.
“When we host a meeting at our hotel, we’re really
trying to work with groups in making them feel that
they’re in Montreal, to give them that local feeling, so
they can get a taste of that Montreal flavor,” said Ma-
rie-Andree Beaudoin, director of sales and marketing
for Le Centre Sheraton. “And the bagel competition
was one [way of achieving this].”
Once away from the property we pounded the
pavement with a local tour company, Spade & Palacio,
who guided us around the Plateau to see numerous
street murals, either hidden or in plain sight. The
company specializes in tours of the underbelly or
anything non-touristy, they said.
The guides also steered us throughout Marche
Jean-Talon, a legendary public market known for local
fruits, vegetable, spices, artifacts, craft beer and even
an upstairs meeting room and school where chefs
teach underprivileged kids the ins and outs of food.
Any group meeting in Montreal can take advantage of
such offerings at Jean-Talon.
“It’s another unique way to see Montreal,” Beaudoin said. “A way to do something that’s more personal.
There’s more bonding.”
As in Montreal, we arrived in Toronto to digest street
art and foodie tours, neither of which were presented
as separate from corporate group travel. Graffiti Alley
encompasses multiple side streets, back alleys and
corner buildings. The entire social spectrum of people
stop by to visit, from trench coats to tuxedos, from
down-and-out street people to brides and grooms
taking wedding photos. By now, Graffiti Alley seems
like one of the selfie capitals of Canada.
Putting Toronto on the map even more is the Kensington neighborhood, in particular the market of the
same name. Almost every ethnicity imaginable already
exists in Toronto somewhere, but in Kensington an
entire substratum of ethnic restaurants, artisan crafts
and bohemian goings-on have made it one of Toronto’s most renowned enclaves. Kevin Durkee owns the
aptly titled Culinary Adventure Co. He met us out on
the main drag and then promptly introduced us to a
wealth of eats in just a few hours. His insanely popular
tours are common for VIPs, groups, parties and all
sorts of corporate affairs.
At both the Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel and
the Westin Harbour Castle, we realized immediately
the benefits each property could offer, in addition to
how planners could utilize the CRN in Canada. At
the Sheraton, Sous Chef Alex Shterenberg gave us
coffee brewing lessons and breakfast outdoors on
a patio area overlooking an ample waterfall. Over at
the Westin, right on the water, celebrity chef Corbin
Tomaszeski took us into his private dining room, just
off the kitchen, and cooked up a spectacular rabbit
dish, a perfect setting, say, if your board of directors
needs a private escape.
In Vancouver, we floated in a boat down False Creek,
MARRIOTT CRN CANADA
A TRANS-CANADA TREK
TERRACE, LE CENTRE SHERATON
MONTREAL STREET ART
360 THE RESTAURANT AT THE CN TOWER, TORONTO
ON the SCENE
WESTIN HARBOUR CASTLE, TORONTO
LE CENTRE SHERATON MONTREAL HOTEL
By Gary Singh