Charlevoix, Quebec Offers Variety for a Unique Meeting Experience
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Charlevoix, Quebec Offers Variety for a Unique Meeting Experience

By Allan Lynch | Jan 7, 2019

Patricia De Crescenzo laughs at her choice of Charlevoix as a host destination for an annual managers’ meeting. Since their host hotel, Le Germain Charlevoix Hotel & Spa, was a four-hour drive from Montreal, she says, “At first we thought it was too far away, but once we saw it, we forgot about the distance.”

De Crescenzo is the retail performance analyst and planner for BESTSELLER, which is an expanding chain of Danish-owned menswear stores in Canada.

“In Denmark we have a training campus, and when looking for a place that would remind us of Denmark, we got that feeling at Le Germain,” De Crescenzo says. “It felt secluded and very brand-oriented. So we clicked.”

LE-GERMAIN-CHARLEVOIX_LE-CLOS

Charlevoix is comprised of a collection of year-round resort communities lining the St. Lawrence River an hour north of Quebec City. The towns of Baie-Saint-Paul and La Malbaie have main streets comprised of fun, pokey little shops, art galleries (the area claims to have the highest concentration of artists in Canada) and restaurants. Charlevoix is also in the midst of an agricultural belt that inspires a Quebec-centric Flavour Trail focused on fresh farm-to-plate produce and proteins, traditional-brewed beer, fresh-pressed ciders, French-styled cheeses and local chocolate.

In September, De Crescenzo brought 53 mangers to Charlevoix for an intense three-day meeting. She began by turning the transportation issue into part of the meeting experience. Charlevoix is served by a small (two trains, growing to three), privately owned rail service that operates between the Montmorency Falls just outside Quebec City to La Malbaie. This is a three-season service that can be chartered. De Crescenzo’s group hired two cars—one to hold luggage, one for a DJ and bar. Managers boarded the train and the party began.

“We tell them you need to give customers a different experience when they walk into our stores, and that’s what we wanted to show them with the train,” she says. “The train was a never-before experience.”

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Their host hotel, Le Germain, which opened in 2012, was designed to include its own rail station. The 145-room property has eight meeting spaces ranging from 230 square feet to 5,225 square feet and, continuing with unique amenities, also has an onsite farm. Prior to opening as a resort, the property was the farm for one of Quebec’s largest convents. Le Germain’s farm respects that heritage. Each morning of their meeting De Crescenzo’s group broke into two smaller groups. One group engaged in traditional physical activity (going to the gym or hiking the property), while the other helped the resort’s farmer gather eggs and tend animals. For her primarily city-based residents it was a real learning experience.

Le-train-de-Charlevoix

Le-Germain-Charlevoix-restaurant

H&S-Le-Germain-Charlevoix-Les-Labours-restaurant
De Crescenzo’s was a smaller-sized group, but Charlevoix is capable of scaling up. In June, the Government of Canada hosted the G7 Summit at the Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu in La Malbaie.

The Fairmont is the region’s largest property, a 405-room, iconic baronial-styled chateau built in the golden age of railway hotels on a bluff overlooking the St. Lawrence River. The 210-acre resort has 24,000 square feet of meeting space and offers a variety of year-round onsite and offsite group options. Groups of up to 165 can arrange for private functions in the adjacent Casino de Charlevoix, golf on a historic championship riverside course in summer and ice-fishing on a golf course pond in winter with a Fairmont chef standing by to cook and serve delegates’ catch. The golf course clubhouse also houses an observatory—the dark night skies here are great for stargazing. Because Charlevoix has extensive snowmobile trails, the Fairmont also provides special snowmobile parking.

FAIRMONT LE MANOIR RICHELIEU
Photo credit: fairmont.com/richelieu-charlevoix

Another accommodation option that can be as a standalone choice, as overflow or for the price-sensitive delegate, is the 113-room Le Petit Manoir du Casino Hotel immediately next to the Fairmont. It also has five meeting rooms.

More accommodation choice comes in 2020 when the 300-room Club Med Quebec Charlevoix resort opens. It will have a heavy ski-focus for winter, but as part of Club Med’s reinvention it is also offering meeting, incentive and team-building packages.

Among the other unique experiences groups can participate in is rodeling. This is an approximately 4.5-mile, European-inspired sled run down a gentle mountain slope at Le Massif ski hill. Le Massif has the highest vertical drops east of the Rocky Mountains and, like Le Germain, has its own rail station.

The region’s proximity to Quebec City has made it popular with insurance, banking and pharmaceutical sectors. Its strong focus on agriculture and family businesses makes Charlevoix a bespoke destination with many natural tie-ins for groups focused on agriculture, small and family enterprises and regional development, as well as having great appeal to earth sciences due to the Charlevoix crater, created when a meteor reshaped the area 345 million years ago. Helicopter tours of the meteor site are a popular program add-on.

Another new entry in the corporate market is La Base destination management company. Because Charlevoix is a rural region, company founder Marie-Eve Chaumont, who has an advertising background, says, “Far from the traditional corporate retreats, La Base’s experiences are inspired by experiential storytelling that involves a transformation for the participants. Whether for a work session at the top of a mountain, strategic planning in a barn, a team cohesion activity in the woods or a vision workshop in a chapel, La Base creates unique experiences to help you achieve the business objectives. Charlevoix is a wonderful playground.”

 

Author

Allan Lynch
Allan Lynch

Allan Lynch is a former newspaper publisher who chucked the office routine to return to his first love: writing. Based near the world’s highest tides in the Bay of Fundy, he specializes in writing about the meeting industry.