Since the Quebec government declared a public health emergency in March 2020, Montreal, the province’s largest city, has lost hundreds of millions in tourism revenue. Many of Montreal’s major cultural events, such as the Montreal International Jazz Festival, the Just for Laughs Comedy Festival, and Osheaga, which altogether bring in an estimated $374 million to the local economy, have been postponed or cancelled until 2021.
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, Montreal has focused on new ways of bringing people to the city in order to make up some of the approximately $4.5 billion that tourism generates for the local economy annually. According to the City of Montreal, $400,000 is being invested into stimulating the downtown core’s economy. Events and activities, such as apple tasting at the Botanical Gardens and the reopening of the Montreal Biodome, were offered throughout the summer and will continue into the fall. An additional $200,000 has been put toward the “Relancez l’été” campaign, which encourages Montreal and Quebec residents to explore the city’s downtown.
Further, Mayor Valérie Plante has introduced newly pedestrianized streets and cycling lanes. These changes aim to draw Montrealers to the shops and activities while maintaining a safe distance from others along Mont-Royal Avenue, St-Laurent Boulevard, St-Catherine St. W., St-Denis St., and de la Commune St., and will persist until the end of October.
Most public spaces, such as parks, public markets, and businesses have been permitted to open by Quebec’s provincial health authorities, allowing for patrons to safely peruse and shop. Visitors are reminded to stay at least two meters apart when possible. Masks and other types of face coverings were made mandatory in all indoor public spaces and public transit as of July 18.
Slowly, museums throughout Montreal have reopened with safety measures put into place. Running at limited capacity, many museums require visitors to book a time slot online to visit in person. Maude Béland, Media Relations Officer for the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA) highlighted the importance of patron safety at the museum.
“Safety measures are indeed very important for us. [We have] worked very hard and put every measure in place to ensure visits are highly enjoyable […] yet intimate, and, above all, safe,” Béland wrote in an email to //The McGill Tribune//. “All of the recommendations of the Government of Quebec and the Commission des normes, de l’équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail (CNESST) have been implemented so that the public feels at ease and entertained during their museum outing.”
Safety measures implemented at the museum include a one-way exhibition path, free audio guides on the MMFA mobile app, and the suspension of permanent exhibition spaces.
Likewise, Montreal’s historic Old Port has taken steps to accommodate its visitors. One novel addition are the blue “Bienvenue/Entrez” initiative decals, which allow shoppers to identify which local businesses are open and to show when businesses are at capacity. Signs with up-to-date public health measures and hand sanitizer stations have also been placed throughout Old Port.
More kinetic Old Port attractions remain adaptable and open. Both the MTL Zipline and the Montreal Observation Wheel have been opened to the public with increased sanitation and social distancing. Sam Cadotte, president of the MTL Zipline, is thankful for the ability to provide a safe and fun experience for the attraction’s customers.
“In general, we are very pleased with the way our customers respect our sanitary measures,” Cadotte said. “We consider ourselves lucky to be allowed to operate in these special times and understand that we have an important role to play in keeping our customers safe.”
As we continue to learn how to live with COVID-19, business owners and event organizers are hoping that the safety measures they have put in place will encourage people to get outside and explore Montreal this fall. With fewer tourists, the next few months may be the perfect opportunity for students, residents of Montreal, and Quebeckers to rediscover the history and charm of Quebec’s metropolis.