Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The View from "Ici"

With 571 guestrooms, the Hilton Quebec is the second-largest hotel in Quebec City - and oh, by-the-way - all of those recently-renovated rooms boast oversized picture windows taking full advantage of amazing views:

The Plains of Abraham, Old Quebec, the St. Lawrence River and the Laurentian Mountains in the distance...

The popular Plaines room on hotel's top, 23rd floor, offers a total of 2,772 square feet - again with a spectacular view.  The Executive Club floor is also located on the 23rd floor - great for VIP upgrades!

Hilton Quebec's 7,623 square foot ballroom is the largest in the city. With 23,000 square feet of dedicated hotel meeting space, and an enviable location adjacent to the Centre des Congres du Quebec (the city's newly-expanded full-service convention centre), the Hilton has always been the go-to choice for larger meetings and conventions.  A multi-million dollar renovation project, though, has added 73,000 square feet of flexible function space beneath the hotel's lobby; albeit technically part of the convention centre, it would be contracted separately.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Banking on Luxury


Located in the historic Old Port of Quebec City on Rue Saint-Pierre, the "Wall Street" of its time,  Hotel 71 was originally a built as a bank.  Now a Four-Diamond rated luxury boutique hotel, its 50 contemporary rooms and nine suites (and one fab Penthouse Suite) feature primary materials such as natural stone and the occasional bank remnant - like a vault door - as well as hardwood floors, spacious bathrooms, and glorious 15 ft. ceilings.

The hotel has four meeting rooms, all with natural light and DIY espresso machines. The largest, Salon 71 at 1500 square feet can accommodate up to 45 people classroom. (We saw it cunningly set-up with rectangular tables of eight - as an alternative to half-rounds.)

Its sister property - attached, with inside access (guests of both hotels have access to the same Espace CafĂ©/lounge offering complimentary coffee) - The Saint-Pierre offers an additional 41 guestrooms in more country-chic style, as well as its own library and lobby where coffee, tea and water are served all day long.  Great for overflow.

Also attached, the stylish but homey (all the dishes are prepared using "Mama's" recipes and patrons are warmly greeted by the owner) Il Matto Italian restaurant can accommodate small groups for dine-arounds or off-sites, that aren't really off-site at all!

Many other restaurants are within walking distance.  The hotel has bicycles for guests who want to explore the city on two wheels.



Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Having a little work done

In the finishing stages of a $70 million dollar facelift, Quebec City's famous "castle", is getting bigger as well as better.

The 120+year old Fairmont Chateau Frontenac is (proudly!) the most-photographed hotel in the world, so she likes to look her best. Guestrooms have been recently renovated in a more contemporary style with an updated lobby, meeting space and some snazzy new Food and Beverage outlets yet to be unveiled. The real focus, however, has been the addition of 15,000 square feet of much-needed meeting space - bringing the rooms-to-space ratio more in line.

The number of Fairmont Gold rooms is also increasing (from 47 to 61) and the Fairmont Gold lounge is being enlarged to allow more guests, and small groups, to enjoy this luxury product.

Now offering 613 guestrooms and 40,000 square feet of function space, the Fairmont Chateau Frontenac will be ready for her close up May 2014.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Small Big Hotels in a Small Big City

Calgary likes to call itself a "small big city". It's the fifth largest municipality in Canada, covering an area of 722 square kilometers (vs. Toronto's 644 sq. km.), but manages to retain a small city feel, and if your group doesn't require the massive space of the Calgary Telus Convention Centre or Stampede grounds, there are a number of right-sized options.

New kid on (a very trendy) block, the 43-guestroom Elan hotel opened in June of last year. The building was originally an apartment building, closed in 2011 and now repurposed as a ultra-modern boutique hotel. Spare and functional, with red accents throughout, all nine room-types have walk-out balconies - and get this: internet FREE, long-distance calling to just about anywhere in the world FREE, breakfast served in a bright main floor space with patio access and built-in business centre - FREE! 

There's also a small meeting room - The Summit - fully wired for video conferencing. Located adjacent to 17th Avenue, Calgary's Retail and Entertainment District for an effortless mix of business with pleasure.
It seems a bit of an oxymoron to talk about a boutique hotel having a 9,500 sq. ft. ballroom, but that's how the 185-room Hotel Arts rolls. Unrecognizable from its roots as a Holiday Inn, complete with old-school outdoor pool and patio - oh, the childhood memories! - now a retro-chic event space available for corporate barbecues, evening receptions....

The best meal I had while in Calgary was at the hotel's restaurant, The Yellow Door Bistro, perhaps not coincidentally named Best New Restaurant in Calgary for 2013.  Popular with the entertainment industry, I can imagine running into a well-known band in the Yellow Door or the hotel's recently re-launched Raw Bar.

Another "Like" for me were the Brooklin Cruiser bicycles, available FREE to guests for city-exploring.

The western-most member of the Canadian Luxury Boutique Le Germain "collection", Hotel Le Germain Calgary is just one minute away from the Telus Convention Centre, so its luxurious guestrooms provide a true sanctuary experience for convention attendees. For smaller meetings, the hotel has six (6) highly-functional meeting rooms (sound-proofed, with acoustic ceilings, advanced lighting and state-of-the-art A/V systems) able to accommodate from 10-100 people.

Hotel amenities include CHARCUT Restaurant (which made MacLean's Best New Restaurants list when it opened in 2010), a roof-top 24-hour fitness centre and SantĂ© Spa, high-speed wireless internet throughout the hotel, and even lap-tops available for guests.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

IndustryInsights, eh?

IndustryInsights is a ConferenceDirect educational event, bringing together ConferenceDirect clients and partners to learn and share ideas about the what's happening in the meetings industry - and what the current trends and forecasts are for the future.

For the first time last June, the event was held in Canada, at the Sheraton Centre Toronto hotel - appropriately, as ConferenceDirect's President and CEO Brian Stevens pointed out as it is exactly this type of "big box" convention hotel that meets the needs of so many of our clients so well.

(The hotel did an *amazing* job - wowing one of my clients with the "best breakfast buffet I've ever seen". )

IndustryInsights regular Mike Fegley (Vice President of Sales - The Americas of Intercontinental Hotels Group) gave a detailed state-of-the-industry presentation with special attention paid to Canadian market trends.  His fact-filled slides were sent to all attendees with a follow up survey.

A prestigious panel of industry experts fielded questions on a wide variety of topics:
  • Are there any "deals" out there? and if so - where?
  • Increase rooms-to-space ratios for complimentary function space
  • Food & Beverage service trends (exemplified by the recent cancellation of Room Service at the Hilton New York), as well as dietary requirements and preferences
  • Internet charges and costs to the hotel
  • "Green" innovations
  • Hotel loyalty/Rewards programs

    Upcoming IndustryInsights are scheduled for Denver (June 18-29, 2014), Minneapolis (Sept.11-12, 2014), and Nashville (November 19-20). Please let me know if you would like any additional information.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

'Tis the Season

Awards Season, that is. Meetings & Incentive Travel recently announced their Readers Choice Award Winners, having solicited their readers to vote for hotels and venues that "went over and above their groups' expectations in 2013". This year readers were asked to cast their votes by region, as well as "with bedrooms" (hotels and resorts) and "without bedrooms" (primarily convention centres)
...and the winners are:
Western Canada:
Honourable Mentions in both categories to The Westin Calgary, The Fairmont Banff Springs, Calgary Stampede and the Shaw Convention Centre in Edmonton.

Central Canada:
The Westin Ottawa Lobby

Honourable Mentions to JW Rosseau The Rosseau Muskoka Resort & Spa, Four Seasons Hotel Toronto, Mississauga Convention Centre, and Centre des Congres de Quebec, St. Andrews Club and Conference Centre, Paramount Conference and Event Venue.

Eastern Canada:
  • The recently-renovated Halifax Marriott Harbourfront was selected as favourite Venue with Bedrooms
  • Fave Venue without Bedrooms was a three-way tie! Dalvay By The Sea in York, Prince Edward Island, the World Trade and Convention Centre in Halifax, and the Prince Edward Island Convention Centre, also in P.E.I.
Delta Beausejour was Honourably Mentioned in the Venue with Bedrooms category.

Congratulations to all!! 

Monday, February 17, 2014

Compact & Completely Westin

The Westin Grand Vancouver is a narrow tower of glass, standing *high* over Robson Street and the city's trendy Yaletown neighourhood, renowned for its cutting edge restaurants and fashionable boutiques housed re-purposed warehouses.

With 206 guestrooms and 4,000 square feet of meeting space, the Westin Grand is considerably more "compact" than her big sister, the Westin Bayshore - though they share the same family traits: Heavenly® Bed and Bath, thoughtful guest amenities, WestinWORKOUT®, and an overall sense of luxury and well-being. This is the brand, after all, that promises: "every element of your stay is created to leave you feeling better than when you arrived."

Deluxe Corner Suite

Three distinct guestroom and suite categories cater to a primarily corporate clientele, and three meeting rooms (scheduled for renovations) offer high ceilings and an abundance of natural light. Ideally suited for groups o 10-60 people;  the pool terrace can accommodate up to 100 outdoors, overlooking the architecturally celebrated Vancouver Public Library.

Like the Bayshore the Westin Grand is about a 15 minute walk to the Vancouver Convention Centre, and a five-minute walk to the Vancouver City Centre station for the Canada Line airport train. (Rather unbelievably I made it from the hotel, to the station, to YVR, and through airport security for a domestic flight in less than an hour!!)