With the Canadian hospitality and live entertainment industries looking for ways to make a comeback after a challenging couple of years, collaboration has become key. That’s why Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth came together with Cirque Éloize to present Celeste, an enchanting new immersive cabaret experience exclusive to the hotel.
Here, Philippe Champagne, regional director of sales and marketing for Eastern Canada at hospitality company Accor, which owns Fairmont, and Jeannot Painchaud, Cirque Éloize’s president and chief creative officer, give The Globe and Mail a glimpse into how tourism and hospitality are evolving.
How did this collaboration come together?
Painchaud: Montreal is one of the world capitals of circus, with Cirque Éloize, Cirque du Soleil and many others. Usually 90 per cent of our shows are played outside of Canada, but with the pandemic, we weren’t able to travel any more and strangely enough, we didn’t have any permanent shows in Montreal. We started talking to Phillipe and his team about combining forces to enhance the experience for visitors to downtown Montreal and for us to have something permanent here. Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth had this amazing space that’s not usually available because of conventions.
Champagne: The partnership was a no-brainer: We have the space and the expertise of service, and Cirque Éloize has the creativity. We thought it was the perfect fit to relaunch our industry and offer something for locals and visitors. I like to call it augmented hospitality; we’re offering much more now than just a hotel room. We have the gastronomic experiences that The Queen Elizabeth is renowned for, the Nacarat bar and now Celeste. Two years from now, this space is going to be busy with conventions again. So now is the time for us to establish ourselves as innovators.
What makes this residency unique to Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth and Montreal?
Painchaud: At Cirque Éloize, we do meaningful entertainment. Celeste is entertaining, spectacular, poetic and emotional. We’ve combined the immersive experience of our private events with the staging of our theatre shows in the hotel to create a destination. It’s an immersive mix of a club and a theatre, with cocktails before and after the show.
Champagne: People can enhance their entire entertainment experience by starting with a drink at Nacarat, seeing the show, then having dinner at Rosélys [the hotel restaurant]. The show is also presented in French and English, which is the signature of Montreal. That was important because we want to talk to the locals as much as we want to talk to tourists. The hotel is connected to the train station, so it’s easy to come from Toronto, Ottawa or Quebec City.
What has the initial response been like?
Champagne: Amazing. The industry here is behind us, because we need this – we need to get out and reconnect. And we’re going to be able to provide that opportunity for everyone. You don’t have to stay at the hotel to come and see Celeste. A lot of residents will stop by after work to see the cabaret and then go home. And many people will decide to make a weekend getaway out of it. So it’s going to please a very large portfolio of people.
Painchaud: It’s going to be a great voyage, but not far from home.
What are your thoughts on the hospitality industry going forward?
Champagne: I think collaboration is the way to go. We have to innovate as people’s needs and behaviours change. With the pandemic, we had no choice but to stop and rethink everything we were doing, including how we were hosting and how we were providing experiences. As a hotel, we need to adjust and offer what it is that the future customer would like. They want to be somewhere safe. They may spend less time travelling for business or leisure, but when they do go out, they’re going to pick a destination where they can have a very nice experience. And this collaboration was so flawless. From Day 1, it just made so much sense.
Painchaud: As Philippe said, the future is collaboration: combining elements to enhance the destination. I think we see that slowly starting to happen in other countries and we want to stay ahead of the curve. This is definitely the way to go.
Cirque Éloize’s Celeste runs Feb. 17 to June 4, 2022, in the Agora and Centre-Ville rooms of Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth in Montreal. For more information, visit cabaretceleste.com.
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