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by Cheryl-Anne Sturken | March 29, 2018

As Montreal’s 950-room Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth approaches its 60th anniversary on April 15, 2018, it has metamorphosed from solid city anchor hotel to sleek, sophisticated flagship for the Toronto-based brand.
 
For Fairmont Hotels & Resorts parent company, Paris-based AccorHotels, the US$300 million, year-long transformation of the property, particularly its more than 84,000 square feet of meeting and event space, represents a significant investment for the company, which is looking to deliver on immersive experiences for attendees.
 
spaceDesigned by the Montreal-based creative agency Sid Lee and Sid Lee Architecture, founders of Cirque du Soleil and the city’s wildly popular annual C2 Montreal conference, Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth’s meeting space is divided into two main areas — the CoLab 3 business hub on the third floor, and Espace C2 on the 21st floor.
 
CoLab 3 features several wildly different themed rooms and 13 individual meeting spaces. For example, the Eureka room features a striking 180-degree wraparound multimedia display and a circular boardroom table for 12 people. Highlights in the more laid-back Swing room include a 55-inch touchscreen, a sectional couch and two swings in an indoor-garden setting. The Copier room’s floor-to-ceiling dry-erase wall and wall of stick-on sheets help create the ultimate space for brainstorming.
 
eurekaAt Espace C2, up to 220 attendees can take part in a half-day, one-day or two-day C2 creative boot camp. “It is a standalone space for C2, but groups meeting in the hotel can add that on to their program,” Anne Marie Johns, Fairmont’s regional director of sales and marketing, told me during a recent visit. “We have a dedicated C2 specialist on-site, who is a C2 employee, who works with groups to develop a program specific to their audience and objectives.”
 
While I was there, a group had been divided into several teams, each facing a different challenge. Some members were solving a riddle, which would eventually unlock the code to a briefcase carrying instructions; a few were huddled in the Cloud, a tent filled with vapor droplets, with zero visibility; and a third group found themselves on a slide, careening down through layers of plastic balls — all in the name of team building, creativity and visionary thinking.
 
Aswingccording to Johns, the C2 space has more than a US$1 million investment in A/V, and all of the brand’s sales employees were required to complete a month of training on how sell the C2 space, because it is so unique to the portfolio.
 
It has now been four months since the hotel debuted its redesign, and according to Johns, the response from planners has been much better than expected. “We are really leveraging our creative space. We did 3,000 site inspections in the first three months since we reopened, and we have converted 75 percent of those into bookings. When I look at our comp set here in Montreal, we are in a league of our own.
 
“We went into this with the thinking, ‘How are we going to do things differently in the marketplace?’” Johns added. “All Fairmont new-builds are looking at shifts in new concepts. Our owners saw this [redesign] as a statement that was part of a larger vision to reposition Montreal as a destination, particularly since the city celebrated its 375th anniversary last year. This a much bigger project than just a renovated hotel.”