Montreal, Inside and Out

The city gets set to host ASTA’s World Congress

By: Kenneth Shapiro

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 not worried.”

In fact, Mangas is enthusiastic about the choice of the host city.

“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 said.

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 world-famous circus.

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 the present.

“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.

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.

Many area hotels offer congress discounts. Check with ASTA for a complete list.

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.

Tours and hotel discounts are available throughout Quebec, Ontario, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

ASTA 703-739-2782