Agents worried about the cold weather for ASTA’s 75th, and
final, World Congress, in Montreal Nov. 6-11, should take a lesson
from Ronald, our guide on a recent press trip to the city.
“During the coldest months of winter, I make my coworkers jealous
and show up at work in shorts,” he said. “I can go from my house to
the office and never have to step outside.”
While I wouldn’t recommend packing only shorts for the congress,
agents will no doubt be amazed by Montreal’s climate-controlled
indoor city, called the Reso. This network of underground and
enclosed public spaces encompasses nearly 20 miles and includes 930
retailers, 350 food outlets, 89 office buildings, eight hotels
(with over 4,000 rooms), 65 metro stations (10 downtown), 19
theaters, three skating rinks and just about anything else a
visitor could want. And perhaps most important for agents, it
connects with the Palais des Congres, Montreal’s convention center
and site of the World Congress.
It is also one of the reasons why Deb Mangas, congress chair, is
not overly concerned about the weather even though the city’s
average temperature in November is 28 degrees.
“We’ve held the Congress in cold weather before and it has always
worked out,” Mangas said. “Agents will put on their coats; we’ll
provide transportation; and with the underground here, I’m really
In fact, Mangas is enthusiastic about the choice of the host
“Montreal is a great international city with a unique flavor, yet
it’s so close and easy to get to for so many agents,” Mangas
Of course, agents should do their best to explore the city from
above ground as well, starting with the Notre-Dame Basilica of
Montreal, in Old Town. Besides being an attraction on its own, the
19th-century church often presents an evening sound and light show
that traces the history of the city. The basilica will also be the
location for the opening of the congress’ general session.
Farther afield, but only 20 minutes from downtown by Metro, is the
Olympic Stadium. Built for the 1976 games, it was an ambitious and
much maligned architectural undertaking. It features a Kevlar roof
supported by steel cables running from a 600-foot-tall leaning
tower. A funicular runs up to the top for great views. Nearby is
the Biodome a cross between an indoor zoo and a natural history
museum, it is especially great for those traveling with kids.
One of Montreal’s best activities at any time of year is exploring
the city’s quaint neighborhoods. Whether it’s Old Town, the Latin
Quarter, Little Burgundy or the Golden Mile, there is no shortage
of boutiques and neighborhood bistros to discover.
With its French influence, naturally Montreal takes its restaurant
scene seriously, and trendy hot spots seem to be opening all the
time. One of the top eateries in the city is actually in the Casino
de Montreal. Called Nuances, it is the only Mobil Five-Star
restaurant in Canada.
After dinner, visitors will appreciate Montreal’s lively nightlife.
The city is famous for its jazz clubs and pubs that serve until 3
a.m. If clients are lucky, Cirque du Soleil, which began in
Montreal, will be previewing a new show in town a tradition for the
With so much to do indoors and out, ASTA is expecting lots of
agents to show up to bid the World Congress a fond farewell. After
75 years, the organization has decided to break up the primary
functions of the congress. For destination exposure, ASTA will hold
International Destination Expos at different locales each year
beginning March 21-26, 2006, in Prague (the following expo will be
on Jeju Island, Korea). To give agents a chance to meet with
suppliers, the organization will present its TheTradeShow,
alternating years between Las Vegas and Orlando (beginning Sept.
10-13, 2006, in Orlando).
If anyone is overly sentimental about the change, there is little
indication of it. For her part, Mangas seems squarely focused on
“I’m really excited about this year,” she said. “It’s an ideal
getaway. Agents will be done with a lot of their holiday
reservations, and it’ll be a good opportunity for them to get out
of the office and meet some suppliers.”
And feel a little joie de vivre, of course.
ASTA’s World Congress will be held in Montreal’s Palais des
Congres. The Palais is in the heart of the city close to
hotels, restaurants and shopping, and connected to the Metro.
A number of airlines, including Air Canada, American,
Continental and Delta, are offering discounts. Special
rates are also available on VIA Rail, while
Amtrak is offering agents free fares to
Montreal’s Metro system is clean, safe and
efficient. On a recent trip, waits were never more than 10 minutes.
Avis is offering car rental discounts for
attendees as well.
WHERE TO STAY
Many area hotels offer congress discounts. Check with ASTA for a
Fairmont Queen Elizabeth
Famous as the place where John Lennon and Yoko Ono held their
“bed-in” in 1969, the Queen Elizabeth is one of the top hotels in
all of Canada.
Hyatt Regency Montreal
Offering direct underground access to the Palais des Congres, the
Hyatt is located in the heart of the city. Be sure to check with
the hotel on the status of recent renovations to the lobby.
Holiday Inn Select Montreal Centerville
Located literally steps from the Palais in Montreal’s Chinatown,
the Holiday Inn offers clean, comfortable superior guestrooms. The
hotel also offers an Executive Club floor with added amenities, and
it features small-group meeting space and a spa and restaurant.
PRE- AND POST- TOURS
Tours and hotel discounts are available throughout Quebec,
Ontario, New Brunswick and Nova