Grand Prix of Montreal boosting the city’s economy, kickstarting the summer

“It’s very exciting, we’re sold out since a few weeks,” said Aida Lounis, of Hotel William Gray, on the business boom the Grand Prix weekend is bringing to Montreal, after two years of the F1 race being absent due to COVID. Alyssia Rubertucci reports

By Alyssia Rubertucci

Relief is the word some would use to describe the Grand Prix being back in Montreal this year.

“After two years of absence, we are extremely happy to have Grand Prix back,” said Glenn Castanheira, Executive Director of the Montréal centre-ville business association. “Utmost joy and festivities for a lot of downtown businesses and beyond downtown even. Grand Prix of Canada is the largest sports event in all of Canada, so it’s really good news, it’s a huge relief and a lot of needed foot traffic for downtown businesses.”

It’s also said to be boosting the morale of Montrealers, as it’s the first Grand Prix since 2019. The big event absent from the city for the last two years of the pandemic.

“We have a team of us over here, 16 friends and family – all came over from San Diego and then my in-laws came over from New Zealand,” said tourist Morgan Ellis. “We decided to come and watch it in Montreal, what better place?”

“Grand Prix always launches the summer festivities here in Montreal, so we do see a lot more people smiling, there’s something in the air downtown,” said Castainheira.

“It’s nice to see people come in smiling, just making the city come back to life, even though it’s just for a couple of days,” said David Mariani of Café Olimpico. “The electricity is phenomenal and everyone’s in a good mood.”

It’s also the time when local business owners’ pockets become well-lined to take them through the summer. 

“For a lot of businesses, this weekend is the busiest, most profitable weekend of the whole year. For many of them, it pays rent for most of the year,” Castanheira said. “If there was a comparison, for example, retailers rely a lot on Christmas, our restaurants and hotels rely a lot on Grand Prix.”

The Formula One race also attracts hundreds of thousands of tourists and F1 fans to the city, meaning hotels are filling up at pre-pandemic levels.

“If you look at our hotel industry, it’s the biggest weekend of the year,” he said. “We’re looking right now at over 97% occupancy in our hotels – that’s virtually completely full and that’s very good news for hotels that have been so badly hit by this pandemic.”

“it’s very exciting, we’re sold out since a few weeks,” said Aïda Lounis, Room Director at Hotel William Gray. ‘it’s a lot of overtime for everyone, we are not full staff like before the pandemic for sure, Ao we are working a six day on seven. We are working like more than 10 hours a day. Everyone is so excited to be back and it’s like there was no pandemic.”

At Fanabox, a Formula One merchandise boutique in old Montreal, they say business is booming.

“My family business was a little bit tricky, my father was saying to me, ‘Max, you got to shut down,'” said Max Bitton of Fanabox. “I felt that if people were going to hold on to their tickets for two years, it proved to me that there is a community here of motorsports sports fans and they want to be back. And of course, now, it’s the next level.”

A much needed kickstart to the city’s economic engine.

“Grand Prix is one of the only events that has a 360 degree impact on the whole ecosystem of downtown, whether you look at the local shop to the high end hotel, to the middle restaurants, everybody is positively impacted by this event,” Castanheira said.

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