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MTL Reunion: What are the issues and challenges for Montreal and aviation in the future?

To the point

Summary of the MTL Reunion international conference on the issues and challenges of global aviation, hosted by the Palais des Congrès de Montréal.

The MTL Reunion International Conference

The Palais des congrès de Montréal hosted the MTL Reunion virtual event, which brought together event industry and business players from around the world to discuss the issues and challenges of today and tomorrow.

The event was masterfully hosted by Rebecca Makonnen, journalist and host of ICI ARTV’s cultural magazine Esprit Critique, and opened with a welcome from:

  • Robert Mercure, President and CEO of the Palais des congrès de Montréal,
  • Valérie Plante, Mayor of Montreal
  • Caroline Proulx, Minister of Tourism

We have seen in recent months that industries are strong and responsive. They have been able to renew their offers by being more flexible and more connected. They will have to think about their environmental footprint and continue to develop technologies to stand out.

What future for the aviation industry and the city of Montreal?

The conference of particular interest to us was The Global Aviation Industry and its Challenges, which brought together 4 major players in the sector:

The purpose of this conference was to showcase the resilience of everyone, to put in place effective measures and to address future solutions that could lead to a return to business for Montreal’s aviation and tourism industry.

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Encouraging preliminary results

We found that, according to the MHL study conducted at Toronto International Airport (YYZ) on 13,000 arrivals, over 99% of participants tested negative for COVID-19, while less than 1% tested positive.

Of these, more than 80% of the positive cases were detected at the initial screening, with the remainder detected at the Day 7 screening. There were no positive results from the Day 14 screening.

This is good news that supports the demands of industry stakeholders to the federal government and public health agencies. All of them are calling for a relaxation of the 14-day quarantine period with the introduction of rapid COVID tests throughout the country to allow for a revival of these sectors. For example, by betting on a reduction to 7 days thanks to these tests.

They believe that these measures will restore the tourists’ trust and encourage them to return and participate in local activities to boost the country’s economy.

We will know more after the results of the pilot project conducted with the rapid tests at YYC, which will begin on November 2.

Montreal's target tourist

Last year, business tourism was most lucrative, often accounting for 55-60% of the annual revenues of tourist accommodations. The international clientele will be targeted as they tend to stay longer and will therefore be the focus of future promotional campaigns.

50% of events were pushed back to the next year. Conventions are in the process of being signed. The situation is OK.

Yves Lalumière, PDG de Tourisme Montréal

International travel is currently on hold. But that doesn’t mean that travellers don’t want to travel or visit. That’s what transpired this summer when they were visiting other provinces in Canada. And of these travellers, 10% were families. This means that families showed up locally.

We have participated in this by highlighting establishments in Canada, where many members of the milesopedia community have stayed.

While travel is expected to decline in the immediate future, Mr. Lalumiere is confident that business travel will pick up around spring/summer 2021.

Finally, another point was raised: the environment. This virus has had the effect of accelerating green projects. According to Lalumière, the fast-travel craze needs to be slowed down in order to reduce our carbon footprint.

The city of Montreal is seen as a huge playground today and must reposition its image for the tourists of tomorrow. The city tries to seduce the French with its urban well-being and its “Riviera” aspect , thanks to its river.

Finally, a future campaign should target the enthusiasm of young travellers to boost the city’s attractiveness, as young people are less fearful of COVID-19:

The brand will be adapted. The emphasis will be on the duration of the stay, the quality of the trip. Stay longer, enjoy more and reduce your carbon footprint.

Yves Lalumière, PDG de Tourisme Montréal

Foreign travellers will be encouraged to leave the airport stopovers behind, replacing them with a stay in Montreal for a few days, for example, in order to visit our magnificent surrounding regions such as the Eastern Townships, the Laurentians or Quebec City, and let them discover all the leisure activities available.

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A state-of-the-art sanitary protocol

The Palais des Congrès presented its sanitary protocol PROGRES for Programme de Reprise Opérationnelle Générateur de Rassemblements et d’Evénements Sécuritaires.

Progres

This protocol has been put in place to give business tourists confidence that events can resume safely and responsibly when they are ready, with the following health measures:

  • a safe welcoming of the participants,
  • a contactless environment,
  • human communication at the heart of operations,
  • spaces with high standards of cleanliness,
  • turnkey formulas for venues,
  • a redesigned food offer.

It should also be noted that Montreal-Trudeau International Airport (YUL) received a new international accreditation last September, attesting to the quality of the sanitary measures deployed at the airport.

Montral Trudeau Covid Featured

The “Travel with Confidence at YUL” program got its first accreditation and shows that it is successful in providing a healthy environment for both passengers and employees of the network.

We were able to see this for ourselves during a recent trip.

The challenges of the Montreal Airport

Montreal-Trudeau Airport (ADM) is a hub, in normal times, for passenger traffic whether by domestic, transborder and international flights and which welcomed over 20 million passengers last year (+4.5% vs 2018)!

With COVID-19, the impact was brutal with a 90% decrease in passenger traffic. Everything is closed, and it’s very quiet.

Philippe Rainville, PDG Aéroports de Montréal

According to Rainville, people’s financial means will not be the same next year: fare increases will be minimized (tickets, airport surcharges).

The latest press release indicated an increase in the Airport Improvement Fee (AIF) from $30 to $35 effective February 1, 2021 for example.

In addition, the airport is emphasizing the major project of the Réseau express métropolitain (REM), which is expected to begin in 2021 with the first departures on the Rive-Sud/Gare Centrale segment and to be completed in 2023.

The service will be open 20 hours a day, 7 days a week and will allow people to cross the city to get to Montreal-Trudeau International Airport in 20-25 minutes (2023). The REM will help the movement of the 13,000 people working at the airport as well as all travellers.

However, these predictions of linking the REM to YUL by 2023 were made BEFORE the COVID crisis. YUL having been hit hard by a nearly stopped activity, and not receiving any governmental help, will have to wait for its finances to recover: this project could take 2 years of delay at least. It will stay in planning mode for the time being.

Currently, a VIP for the airport is a traveler who can afford to park. We hope that tomorrow, a VIP will be a Very Integrated Person who will help to maximize the infrastructure.

Philippe Rainville, PDG Aéroports de Montréal

ADM is counting heavily on government funding to get this modern, green infrastructure project moving again.

Remember that the ADM had to let go of 30% of its employees at the end of August 2020, due to the postponement of the Canadian borders opening and the maintenance of the mandatory quarantine.

Yul Airport

On the Air Canada side, Mark Galardo believes that the airline industry’s recovery must be resumed and supported by the governments that are currently absent.

Air Canada is Canada’s largest airline. The company has launched more than 40 travel routes around the around the world and has contributed to the renewal of the city of Montreal. That is where he thinks we need to go.

We have to rebuild, Air Canada will become an international champion again. But it takes a vaccine to get back to normal to get our traffic back.

Mark Galardo, Vice-président, Planification du réseau et Alliances, Air Canada
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In the meantime, Air Canada tries to reassure its customers. For example, with CleanCare+ you can travel with confidence, or with free insurance covering COVID-19.

What progress has been made following COVID-19?

On the technology side, we will rely more on biometrics in the future, a way to offer a secure and convenient travel experience to limit contact and allow digital identification.

Biometrics is now well used around around the world as in London for example, with the use of the smart phone as a means to verify the ticket and the identity of the passenger with a facial scan.

Biometrics will speed up the check-in process, identity verification at airport shops and border control (eGates) on departure and arrival at your destination, in a secure and efficient manner. This technology would be more reliable than fingerprint scanning and would help combat fraud.

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What is the prognosis for the recovery?

Mr. Oliveira is thinking about the future and waiting for the recovery like the others. It will definitely be there for 2022-2023.

We need to resume air travel, connecting people and businesses. The aviation industry will recover and we will come back stronger than ever.

Luis Felipe de Oliveira, Directeur général, Conseil international des aéroports

Travel will certainly not be the same, much like after the September 11, 2001 attacks. The airports, the way we travel, the world will be different. Sanitary measures are here to stay to keep travellers safe.

The City of Montreal and the aviation industry are advocating resilience and hope for a gradual return to 2019 levels in the coming years, but we will have to be patient.

The UNWTO which is the World Tourim Organization announces a very difficult year 2021 and foresees a return of the international tourism mainly in the third quarter.

This unprecedented decline has dramatic social and economic consequences and puts millions of jobs and businesses at risk.

Zurab Pololikashvili, Secrétaire général de l'OMT
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Conclusion

The entire tourism and aviation industry is trying to work shoulder to shoulder to restore confidence in travel and make travellers feel safe at all levels.

There are signs that 2021 will be a year of recovery. But we’ll have to wait until 2022 or even 2023 to return to the pre-COVID-19 level. IATA even estimates that it will not be until 2024.

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