Since then, art & culture have become part of the asset’s repositioning strategy, proving their positive impact on locals, visitors and employees. The hotel continuously organizes cultural programs, some of them designed and produced with MASSIVart. We collaborated on two out-of-the-box marketing initiatives infused with art & culture: the Giant Bed-In-For-Peace as well as the Globe for Peace’s artistic residency program.
On the occasion of the Bed-In for Peace Day, we had a chat with Philippe Champagne, Regional Director, Sales & Marketing, Eastern Canada, Accor Hotels, on how things have gone in the last 5 years, after having made the strategic decision to make art & culture a major pillar of their repositioning.
MASSIVart: First of all, can you tell us more about the genesis of the renovation project?
Philippe Champagne: Ivanhoé Cambridge and Fairmont Hotels & Resorts announced in 2016 a major renovation project planned for Montreal’s preeminent downtown hotel, Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth. Ivanhoé Cambridge has invested $140 million to transform the hotel experience at the world-renowned property. This transformation is an exceptional historic opportunity. One of the key motivations is for the hotel to remain the leader in its market for business travellers, meetings, conventions, events, and to introduce compelling Food & Beverage offerings to become THE place to be in Montreal’s city centre.
Another main objective was for the hotel to be more accessible for Montrealers, and for Montrealers to reconnect with The Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth. The connection to the local market is facilitated through experiences in the restaurants, bars, Artisans Market, the Agora art & culture event space.
MASSIVart: What were your intentions with Ivanhoé Cambridge in investing in such a collection of artworks and architectural art integrations, and what were the expected results?
Philippe Champagne: It goes back to one of the main objectives of the revitalization, which is to give back to Montrealers Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth. The artworks enhance the experience of local or international visitors. They allow them to discover and appreciate their experience in inspiring places. We are more than a hotel, we offer augmented hospitality. During the pandemic, we even offered guided tours of the 123 works of art produced by 37 Québec and Canadian artists.
MASSIVart: For the Suite 1742, our multi-disciplinary team researched, documented and produced an immersive 360-degree experience that generated international recognition, from mass media to award festivals. Did it meet your objectives?
Philippe Champagne: The John Lennon & Yoko Ono Suite, #1742, has been a legendary part of the hotel’s history ever since the couple held their weeklong Bed-in for peace and recorded Give Peace a Chance in the suite in 1969. With its revitalization, The John Lennon & Yoko Ono Suite will continue to highlight that famous moment in history, it really became an even more unforgettable experience for guests.
MASSIVart: Five years later, can we say that the objectives have been achieved?
Philippe Champagne: More and more! The relaunch of Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth in 2017 was very fast and very oriented on the conventions and business travellers. The unexpected shutdown due to Covid allowed us to make a stop and rediscover and re-emphasize the other facets of the revitalization of our hotel and today I am super happy to have the chance to maximize the art & culture aspect of the Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth. From the virtual concert of Bobby Bazini in the John Lennon & Yoko Ono Suite to the guided tours of our artworks and this great collaboration with Cirque Eloize and more recently a new partnership with the Conseil des Métiers d’arts du Québec and the designer Jean Claude Poitras, which gives an international platform to more than 30 local artists in a redesign of our Suites Plateau, I think we can say mission accomplished!
MASSIVart: At MASSIVart, we think that art allows telling new stories that are linked to the identity of the place in which it is integrated, it is also a way to create discussions with visitors and good marketing opportunities (PR, word of mouth, social media). What do you think about that?
Philippe Champagne: I completely agree. Today’s traveller is interested in the culture of the places they visit and the integration of arts and culture in a hotel is completely in line with this new expectation. Art and culture allow people to dream, to be inspired or even to be transported to a different universe and this is precisely what a hotel must offer… A souvenir different from their everyday life. The hotel industry combined with the arts and the culture offer stories and memories to each of the travellers.
MASSIVart: How do you think the repositioning of the Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth has gone through the integration of art?
Philippe Champagne: Again, I think that originally the recovery of the Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth was too fast and left little room for this facet of its transformation, but today I can say without hesitation that the integration of arts and culture certainly gives Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth a step ahead of its competitors.
MASSIVart: Thanks to this project, can we say that you have created a new hotel within the same building?
Philippe Champagne: I think the integration of art and culture has definitely helped revitalize Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth and create this ‘’new’’ hotel experience. I think this art integration was nicely merged with the other pillars of the transformation and that the amalgamation of this vision of Ivanhoé Cambridge and Fairmont Hotels & Resorts has made this transformation a success.
The attractiveness of the Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth was recovered by using the transformative power of art, design, creativity and culture, resulting in stronger and more authentic connections with the hotel’s guests and visitors.
Always keeping our partner’s financial and business objectives at the core of our projects, we can say that this asset repositioning was done right because the Suite 1742 alone generated a 33% increase in its occupancy rate and a 200% increase in the average rate after the renovation. Proving that people will pay a premium for engaging, artful and cultural experiences.
The hotel’s fame has transcended the hotel industry and it continues to be a must-see location for tourists, fans, influencers and the press – including recently the Netflix series Somebody Feed Phil.