Montreal business owners rev their engines for Grand Prix's return

Jean-Sébastien Boudreault, a spokesperson for the Association des hôtels du Grand Montréal, said the event is certainly a boost for the region's hotels as visitors are booking rooms all over the city.

Concerned about environment, Plante administration pursues 'ecological transition' for event

Laura Serri, owner of Caffè Italia in Montreal’s Little Italy, is looking forward to the return of the Grand Prix. (CBC)

Laura Serri, owner of Caffè Italia in Montreal's Little Italy, says the Grand Prix always brings crowds.

"There's people from all over the city," Serri said. "They come and they hang around and they cheer. There are kiosques all over. It's a nice happy place."

The Grand Prix was put on hold when pandemic measures were strict, but it's coming back this weekend after a two-year hiatus and many business owners are revving their engines with anticipation as the event is known for giving the local economy a boost.

"It's a fun, fun weekend," said Serri.

The Société du parc Jean-Drapeau, Tourisme Montréal and the Formula 1 Grand Prix du Canada published a study earlier this year that found the event's economic impact on the gross domestic product (GDP) is $63.2 million.

The study also found provincial and federal tax revenues are $16 million and that 66 per cent of visitors came from outside Montreal — 52 per cent from outside Quebec.

Jean-Sébastien Boudreault, a spokesperson for the Association des hôtels du Grand Montréal, said the event is certainly a boost for the region's hotels, with visitors booking rooms all over the city.

"As soon as they announced that the Grand Prix was coming, hotels were being booked," he said.

After struggling to rent even a handful of rooms during the pandemic, hotel owners are looking to this weekend as a way to kickstart the tourism industry this summer, Boudreault said.

Jean-Sébastien Boudreault, a spokesperson for the Association des hôtels du Grand Montréal, says tourists started booking hotel rooms as soon as the Grand Prix was announced. (CBC)

The fact that hotel occupancy rates are up over 97 per cent is also good news for businesses, said Glenn Castanheira, the executive director of downtown Montreal's merchants' association.

"The Grand Prix is the largest sports event in Canada and a huge deal for downtown businesses in a 'normal' year. This year is anything but normal," he said in an email.

"We can expect a record influx of visitors and some much-needed foot traffic for our downtown businesses who've been so severely impacted by the pandemic."

After Montreal was so hard hit by the pandemic, the Grand Prix is helping the downtown core "toward a fast and lasting recovery," he said.

The Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, located in Montreal's Jean-Drapeau Park, will be lapped 70 times by racers who will travel just over 305 kilometres on Sunday afternoon after qualifying sessions on Saturday.

Cars hit a maximum speed of 350 km/h in a race that was first held in Montreal in 1978.

Catherine Cadotte, a spokesperson for Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante, said the event remains one that "makes the city shine the most around the world and which thrills the city, its businesses and its cultural institutions."

However, the Plante administration continues to pursue the "most ambitious objectives in terms of ecological transition" and, she explained, questions raised around the event's environmental impact are relevant and necessary.

"It is up to the organizers to explain how they intend to contribute to ecological transition efforts," said Cadottte.

Formula 1 Grand Prix du Canada did not reply to a request for comment.

with files from Elias Abboud


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