by Cheryl-Anne Sturken | September 01, 2017
This past July, Canada reached its 150th anniversary. To celebrate, our neighbor to the north, fondly known for maple syrup, brutally cold winters and rabid ice hockey fans, is throwing a blowout party of yearlong festivities, from big-city weekend-long galas to patriotic small-town parades. It even produced the official Canada 150 tulip, with red and white petals to match the Canadian flag, developed in partnership with the Netherlands. Clearly, this is a major celebration, and it shows no sign of slowing in the coming months.

Canada has long been a popular destination for U.S. travelers. Now, with a currency exchange rate hovering at CAD$1.39 to US$1, it has even more appeal as an affordable meeting destination. Backing up that attractive currency rate is heavy investment in the hospitality sector. The major cities of Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver are introducing new air routes, luxury meeting hotels, award-winning restaurants, and glitzy venues and attractions.

What follows is a snapshot of some highlights from the development front.

French-centric Montreal has been celebrating its 375th birthday in grand style this year with countless food and music festivals and specially curated exhibits at just about all of its museums. In hotel news:

• The 90-room Le Mount Stephen, with more than 6,000 square feet of meeting space, opened in May 2017 following a massive renovation of its 100-year-old neo-Renaissance building.

• After closing in June 2015 for a CAD$140 million overhaul, the 950-room Fairmont the Queen Elizabeth reopened this June with a fresh look and several new dining options. To open on the 21st floor in October is Espace C2, a meeting space for up to 220 people that was developed with Montreal-based C2, innovators of the C2-MTL conference.  

• The 166-room AC Hotel Montreal Downtown, featuring close to 6,000 square feet of meeting space, will debut in January 2018.

• To open in fall 2018 is the 163-room Four Seasons Montreal, with a 6,000-square-foot ballroom and lots of luxury retail space.

• Heating up the boutique-hotel scene is the 127-room Hotel William Gray, housed in two historic buildings in Old Montreal. The property has 10,000 square feet of event space, and its new restaurant, Maggie Oakes, has quickly become a hot spot with locals.

• In May 2017, Air Canada announced the addition of a number of new routes from Montreal, including service between Dallas; Iceland; Shanghai; and Marseilles, France.

• WestJet plans to begin twice-daily service between Montreal and Boston on Oct. 15.