(Montreal) This weekend will be of particular interest for motorsport enthusiasts who will be roaming around downtown Montreal to get a glimpse of the luxury vehicles and soak up the festive atmosphere surrounding the return of the Formula 1 Grand Prix.
Posted at 9:41 am
“It feels like 2019, we’re back to normal,” said Alfredo Monsivais, a Montrealer he met while admiring a green Alfa Romeo on display on Peel Street on Thursday afternoon.
Sunday’s race will be the first Canadian Grand Prix in three years since the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of the previous two events.
The days leading up to a race are always special, says co-owner of Chez Delmo restaurant in Old Montreal, Benoit Dessureault. After the long winters in Montreal, the race officially marks the beginning of his summer activities.
“It’s almost like coming out of hibernation,” he said in an interview on Thursday. We see this celebratory crowd arriving, well dressed, with money to spend, and saying, “Wake up Montreal, it’s party time!” »
The restaurateur knows that a good price is also good for business. On a typical evening, Chez Delmo serves around 70 customers in its 60-seat dining room. But there will be around 150 guests parading every night over this long F1 weekend.
“The value of the average bill is increasing, we are selling more sparkling wine, there is more alcohol consumption, we are selling more luxury goods, wine, etc.,” the entrepreneur lists. It’s the second best time of the year after New Year’s Eve. »
This great return of F1 is also a joy for metropolitan hotel businesses, as highlighted by Jean-Sébastien Boudreault, CEO of the Greater Montreal Hotel Association.
” [Pendant la pandémie], there were months when our occupancy rate hovered around 5%, he recalled Thursday. It was extremely difficult for our hoteliers. »
This weekend, he said, occupancy will hit 96% and the average nightly rate will be around $500.
The Grand Prix is one of the busiest weekends of the summer, as is the start of the International Jazz Festival and Osheaga.
That holiday doesn’t come without a cost to taxpayers, however. In 2017, the three tiers of government announced a $98.2 million investment to keep the event in Montreal through 2029. That agreement was extended by two years in 2021 to resume races canceled due to the pandemic. Quebec and Ottawa, on the other hand, had to give out 51 million more.
According to Moshe Lander, who teaches economics at Concordia University, while the Grand Prix is a “major event,” he believes its financial implications are being overestimated.
While the race could result in a boost in business for some, the overall impact would be small compared to the city’s economy as a whole, he said.
“If F1 wasn’t there, it’s not like there weren’t any tourists coming to Montreal,” he said. It would just be another group of tourists. »
He adds that Montreal hotels are always very crowded in the summer, meaning people coming for Formula 1 are just taking the place of other visitors who would come to see the city’s art or attend attend a cultural event.
Crossed onto Crescent Street, Stephannie Urrutia, who was walking with her mother Ingrid Estrada, both dressed in Ferrari colors, simply said she was excited to see people again and see a sport she loves again.
“It feels really good to have that back after a pandemic,” she said.