Q&A with Jean-François Tourigny, Le Centre Sheraton Montreal
Bit by bit, Canada’s meetings and events community is getting back to business. And while no one can say for sure what will come of pandemic restrictions, venues like the Le Centre Sheraton Montreal Hotel are cautiously optimistic that the days of robust, in-person events are getting closer.
For a glimpse of what the future of meetings holds, we spoke with Jean-François Tourigny, Director of Event Planning at Le Centre Sheraton Montreal Hotel.
Is your venue ready to get back into in-person meetings?
We are, indeed. We’ve already started, and we’re seeing an increase in demand. Of course, things are still going to be slower than usual for the next few months, but we’re seeing a lot of requests.
How confident are meetings and events planners about returning to in-person events?
Overall, they’re confident. Right now, they’re mainly focused on safety protocols, how many people they can get into a room, what we’re doing to keep things safe, and factors like that. And then, they’re also concerned if they’ll even be allowed to have in-person meetings because of new measures being put in place. For example, some people have their meetings scheduled, but with the new vaccination passport being implemented, they’re trying to figure out how that impacts them. So when those types of developments happen, that’s when we work with planners to figure out what that means for them.
How do you keep track of all these changes?
It’s a day-to-day responsibility. All of the information is on the government site and Tourisme d’Aaffaire Québec is working a lot with the ministers to stay updated and post that information on their site as well www.congres.com. On top of that we are in communication with Tourism Montreal, the Quebec Minister of Tourism, and other sources.
Hybrid meetings (aka in-person and virtual) became a standard over the pandemic. Do you see hybrid events continuing as things open up?
I think it’s going to stay, and it’s going to evolve. Much like working from home became common and will stick around, hybrid meetings are also going to live on past the pandemic. That said, people will still want to meet in person, so for a lot of organizations, having those virtual options are going to be an added value for those who cannot attend for any number of reasons.
What other trends do you see coming up for the future of meetings?
Menus are going to have to be rethought for a couple of years. People will be a bit more nervous when it comes to the safety of the food being served. You won’t see many buffets, for example, and we’re going to have to be more efficient and creative in how we offer food and beverage.
What about networking and social events?
There will always be social events, because that’s the essence of meetings. We can’t do much right now because of the restrictions, so we’ll have to see how or if they change when more social events and activities are allowed.
How is Le Centre Sheraton Montreal adapting to these changes and expectations?
We’re always adapting in the way we use our space, serve our food, and host groups. We always have to be ready to react quickly as conditions change. For example, weddings are maxed at 25 people right now, but we know that the moment that restriction is removed we’re going to have a lot of planned weddings wanting to add more people. So we just need to stay informed so we can adapt quickly when that happens.