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Green Meeting Industry Council
700 N. Fairfax Street, Suite 510
Alexandria, VA 22314

Destination Spotlight - December 2012
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Destination Spotlight

Get to know our member destinations. Every month we profile a different destination who helps to make the GMIC community so unique.
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Destination: Montreal, Quebec, Canada

How do you communicate your city’s sustainability commitment to meeting organizers?
Two scenarios figure largely at the moment: local meeting organizers who are members of Tourisme Montréal have privileged access to information regarding local sustainable development initiatives via the online Espace Membres (Member Space) site, training workshops organized by Tourisme Montréal and the environmentally-friendly tourist bulletin, which is published quarterly. For meeting organizers who are clients of Tourisme Montreal, Montréal’s commitment toward sustainable development is communicated pretty informally for now: Tourisme Montréal’s Meeting and Convention Sales department distributes a PDF document that summarizes our destination’s defining principles in terms of eco-responsibility. In addition, clients may be referred to our sustainable development counsellor if they require further information or if they have specific requirements concerning the eco-responsible organization of their convention.

In an effort to improve the efficiency of our communication, we are currently in the midst of finalizing our Green Meetings microsite, which is targeted primarily at event organizers and will offer a comprehensive tool box plus all references necessary to host an eco-responsible event in Montréal. The microsite will be online as of December 2012.

How does this support your ability to attract meetings into your area?
Meeting organizers are becoming more and more demanding when it comes to the selection of a host city for their event. There is also a greater number of non-profit organizations, professional associations and international organizations from different sectors of sustainable development, such as clean energy, environmental standards or carbon compensation, which are looking for exemplary destinations in which to hold their annual meeting. Tourisme Montréal’s green approach and the Montréal tourist industry’s Green Plan are undeniable assets when it comes to showcasing our city as a choice destination.

What sustainable attribute are you most proud of within your city and sets your city apart from other cities?

Montréal is particularly proud of its sustainable transportation network. Given its compact size, Montréal is a "walkable” city, meaning that it can be easily travelled by foot or by bicycle. The success of the internationally-renowned BIXI public bicycle sharing system attests to the efficiency of the city’s cycle path network and the love of Montréalers for biking.

Within the same vein, it is also important to highlight Montréal’s unique lifestyle, which fuels our city’s creative and innovative nature, consequently leading to a host of unique sustainable, far-reaching initiatives that span architecture, urban agriculture and cultural events. The Maison du développement durable (Sustainable Development Centre), Lufa Farms and the Space for Life collective initiative are shining examples of the creative atmosphere that reigns over Montréal.

How does your CVB/City support sustainable events (minimizing negative impacts and maximizing positive contributions in the local community) to help event organizers?

Describe the sustainable transportation options available in your city for event organizers? (for example, bicycling options, light rail, walkable convention zone)
Meeting attendees and organizers have the metro, bus or bicycle paths at their disposal as transportation options. With over 650 km of bicycle paths, Montréal ranks among the most bike-friendly cities in the world and was nominated as "One of 10 best bike cities in North America” by Outside magazine. Furthermore, with the business district located at the heart of downtown, all of the cultural attractions, hotels and restaurants are easily accessible by foot. In the wintertime, the underground network provides a safe and warm way to travel by foot from one end of downtown to the other, without having to brave the elements outside.

What solutions do you provide to help event organizers with waste diversion (venue recycling, composting, donation programs, etc.)?
Most of our meeting facilities have their own recycling program that saves paper, cardboard, plastic, glass and metal from going to the landfill. As for composting, while it is somewhat rare for meeting facilities to compost regularly, many venues may procure the services of an outside waste management service supplier for events. Compost Montréal is an organization that provides such a service on demand. For food recovery programs, the Tablée des Chefs (The Chef’s Table) is a Montréal organization whose mission is to gather event food surplus (leftovers) in order to redistribute to low-income people, however, numerous other community organizations can also be contacted for occasional requests.

How do you support local community organizations and facility CSR project support for event organizers?
We have contacted and met with a certain number of community organizations in order to identify the various socially-responsible activities in which meeting organizers may participate. Montréal boasts an abundance of community initiatives and neighbourhood projects that aim to improve quality of life within the community at large. A list of these organizations will be available on the Green Meetings microsite.

How do you support local food or other procurement sourcing options for event organizers?
Tourisme Montréal, in partnership with VIATAO, a publisher specializing in sustainable tourism, is currently working to identify restaurants and caterers who have implemented environmentally-friendly operating practices. Product traceability and local sourcing are among the criteria verified by an audit; this information will be available on the Green Meetings microsite. Furthermore, organizations certified by the Bureau de normalisation du Québec (Quebec Standards Board), such as the consulting firm Takt-Étik, are equipped to assist event organizers in working with caterers to adapt menus so that they satisfy responsible event management standards, which prioritizes local, organic and seasonal produce.

Does your bureau or major convention center have a green team?
Our organization demonstrated its profound commitment to sustainable development by creating a full-time, dedicated sustainable development position in 2011. An internal green committee comprised of ten member representatives from each organizational department is responsible for the sound environmental management of our activities. For its part, the Palais des congrès also has its own green committee and a full-time sustainable development counsellor.

Do you provide educational training programs for your region (venues, etc.) about sustainable best practice? If so, in what format? Do you profile and/or promote sustainable hospitality partners?
As part of the Montréal tourist industry’s Green Plan, Tourisme Montréal organizes training sessions as well as offers a free sustainable development consulting service to its members. Training is offered in the form of workshops, meetings, and presentations; soon, the microsite will also put a comprehensive tool box of resources at the disposition of Montréal tourist industry members. The consulting service is offered by way of personalized, one-on-one meetings. Accommodation establishments that are certified by sustainable development programs such as Green Key or RéserVert are identified in the Green Montréal section of our website and the Green Meetings microsite will soon list other green partners in the meeting industry as well.

Describe the most impactful sustainable event experience/customer experience supported by your CVB?
In April 2012, GMIC held its annual meeting at Montréal’s Hilton Bonaventure Hotel. This proved to be a tremendously enriching experience that had an extremely positive impact on our community. GMIC worked closely with the Hilton Bonaventure in order to improve the hotel’s environmental practices. The Takt-Étik consulting firm was also involved in the eco-responsible event project, ranking the meeting as a level 3 according to the responsible event management standard as determined by the Bureau de normalisation du Québec. On the societal level, GMIC had a positive impact by raising a significant amount of funds to support the One Drop organization, which works toward ensuring that everyone has access to water. Finally, thanks to the dedication of those who attended the social-responsible event organized by GMIC, the TOHU , Cité des Arts du Cirque received important assistance towards the preparation of La Faya, one of its summer cultural events.

What advice would you provide to other CVB professionals seeking to head down the sustainable event pathway?
The first step is to get all CVB professionals on board and committed to sustainable development. Turning the meeting industry green is not just up to one person, but requires a consensus on the validity of environmentally-responsible practices. All CVB departments must do their part so that the meeting and event industry becomes receptive to change and takes positive action in the right direction.

When an event organizer comes to your city for a site inspection, what is your favorite sustainable activity, attribute, location or experience that you like to share with them?
Depending on the particular interests of the event organizer, we could take them to visit the Maison du développement durable (Sustainable Development Centre), an iconic Montréal example of sustainable architecture. The cité des Arts du Cirque (Circus Arts Centre) is also a wonderful place to visit for anyone interested in Montréal’s cultural and creative side. A meeting organizer with an interest in sustainable transportation options could take one of our famous BIXI bikes for a spin around the city. Montréal’s green rooftops would naturally be an appealing tour theme from May to September, when the Palais des congrès and Fairmont Queen Elizabeth Hotel rooftop gardens are thriving. Finally, a visit to the Space for Life facilities: the Botanical Garden, the Insectarium, the Biodôme and the Planetarium are all shining examples of sustainability that are a must-see whenever visiting Montréal.

What value do you see being affiliated with the global GMIC community?
The green meeting industry is a rather recent phenomenon that is certainly booming. It is imperative to stay up-to-date with standards, certifications and tools because the industry is in constant evolution. In this sense, to be part of the GMIC community is a must in order to stay at the heart of the discussion and to keep on top of green meeting issues and development.

Our membership to an organization such as GMIC, internationally-recognized for its green meeting expertise, provides significant support to the credibility of the green program implemented and executed by the Montréal tourist industry and Tourisme Montréal.

What do you need from the industry to continue to advance in the realm of sustainability?
In order to rally more tourist industry members to our cause, we must convince them by leading by example. In this sense, we must prove that event organizers are truly looking for environmentally-friendly destinations and facilities, and that the implementation of sustainable development practices for events is not only possible, but profitable. Trend analyses and business cases are undeniably one of the resources that we require the most in order to gain more member support.