Q&A with Bertil Fabre, GM
After a year of lockdowns and skeleton crews, Le Centre Sheraton Montreal is eager to get back to doing what it does best. With economies re-opening, we reached out to Bertil Fabre, General Manager with the iconic Montreal venue, to get his perspectives on past challenges and future opportunities.
Is it safe to say the last year has been challenging?
Absolutely. It’s been an experience of a lifetime. We were planning to have our best year ever back at the start of 2020 and host events for organizations like Skate Canada, but everything disappeared in March when the pandemic restrictions came in.
After that, it was a bit crazy. I never expected to close my property, but on April 1st, we closed for five months. It was one of the worst decisions I had to make in my career, but we had to do it. Luckily, we were able to reopen the property in September 2020.
How did you prepare for that re-opening?
We had to work hard to adjust to all the pandemic restrictions and make sure all the sanitary measures were being done to keep our staff and clientele in a safe environment. That’s all part of our ongoing Commitment to Clean program, which includes giving associates the necessary training and tools to keep our venue safe and secure.
It’s been a challenge, though. We’ve had a small staff taking care of a 41,000 sq. ft. property with 825 rooms. It’s not easy, but we know that the work is worth it and that things are getting better.
What are you expecting as Ontario begins to ease its restrictions?
We expect a lot when the frontier between Quebec and Ontario re-opens. A recent study from the Quebec government says 56% of the clientele from Ontario intend to travel to Quebec in July and August 2021. That will mean a lot in terms of increasing our occupancy, driving advanced dining reservations (IDRs), and sparking demand for local bars, restaurants, and meeting spaces. That activity is also going to spur the reopening of our new Sheraton Club Lounge and renovated spaces.
As well, we can’t wait to see the borders open from the US. I expect to see an increase in weekend business among tourists since Montreal is very attractive in terms of our diverse restaurants and festivals.
What are you doing to prepare for that increased activity?
We’re busy preparing for our team for the return to in-person meanings by setting up all necessary health and safety measures. We’re also looking at our food and beverage (F&B) program and what needs to be changed in terms of prepared meals, lunch boxes, buffet, or a la carte options. Pandemic restrictions tend to change with time and as the pandemic evolves, so we’re making sure to adapt quickly and efficiently.
On top of this, I’m excited to get our sales team back and selling our great hotel and meeting space.
What new and exciting features are waiting for guests at Le Centre Sheraton Montreal?
The Sheraton brand is going through transformations worldwide, and we’re one of the first to be transformed. This is very exciting for us because we’re going to have a new product that both our associates and customers will be excited about.
Over the third wave of the pandemic, we completed massive renovations and putting the finishing touches on our Sheraton Club Lounge, which is amazing because we did that all while going through a very tough time. Now, we’re in the process of completing another round of renovations and moving on to upgrades within our lobby, bar, and restaurant.
I’m excited about Montreal as well, not just my property. I know that we have an attractive city with the convention center and all the newly renovated properties. The location is perfect, so I foresee a great future.
Bertil Fabre is General Manager with Le Centre Sheraton Montreal [link to: https://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/yulsi-le-centre-sheraton-montreal-hotel/]. To learn more about the new Sheraton Club Lounge, contact Christopher Spear at Christopher.Spear@Sheraton.com.