Montreal’s festival season is in full swing, but staff shortages could dampen the fun

For the first time in two years, Montrealers are gearing up for a summer of festivals with very few COVID-19 restrictions in place, but festival organizers and business owners fear labor shortages will interfere with pleasure.

The Montreal International Jazz Festival, MURAL Fest and Grand Prix are just some of the attractions next month, but the downtown Montreal business association says there are rumors that the city could become a victim of its own success.

“We’ve all heard about the labor shortage and it’s a real threat to events in Montreal, to venues, really all businesses,” said Glenn Castanheira, their general manager.

“The real risk is that too many people will return to the city center and we won’t be able to accommodate them properly,” he said.

“If we don’t have enough people in hotels to keep those rooms tidy, to keep our restaurants open, to keep our festivals going, it could be a bad experience for those tourists.”

Glenn Castanheira is the Executive Director of the Downtown Montreal Business Association. He says understaffed downtown businesses will be tested by the influx of customers during the city’s festival season. (Radio-Canada News)

Paul Boileau is the owner of the The White Bear souvenir shop just around the corner from Quartier des Spectacles and Place des Arts. He expects a big summer with the return of the jazz festival, but says staffing has been a challenge.

Its sales fell 95% during the pandemic. He expects business to pick up, but now he’s stuck with half as many employees as before.

“It’s very, very, very, very complicated,” he said, saying companies in the tourism sector are competing to offer higher wages to workers.

Paul Boileau is the owner of the souvenir shop L’ours Blanc, a stone’s throw from the Quartier des Spectacles. He’s not worried about foot traffic this summer, but says staffing has been a major challenge. (Radio-Canada News)

“I put ads on Kijiji, and Employment-Quebecand received only three resumes,” he said.

Laurent Saulnier, vice-president of programming for the Montreal International Jazz Festival, said they were lucky to have found staff, but said many other events were struggling.

“If you’re doing a three- or four-day festival anywhere else in the province in Quebec, I think it’s difficult to have the staff you need for your event,” he said Tuesday. as the festival announced its full lineup.

This is the first full edition of the festival since the start of the pandemic. More than 350 artists will perform in indoor and outdoor concerts for ten days, from June 30 to July 9, two-thirds of which will be free.

A new stage is also inaugurated entirely dedicated to Montreal artists. It will offer a handful of free shows, including two on July 1 with R&B artist Fernie and singer and rapper Emma Beko.

Laurent Saulnier is the vice-president of programming at the Jazz Festival. He says many in the events industry are struggling to line up enough workers. (Radio-Canada News)

Saulnier hopes people will be eager to come to the festival, even if the pandemic isn’t over yet.

“After two years, we just don’t know if everyone feels safe enough to come to a giant festival,” he said.

Castanheira worries that companies that have faced staffing problems in recent years could be overwhelmed by the sudden increase in demand. He says workers could be at risk of burnout.

“We can adapt extremely quickly and I would say Montreal does that better than most, and we’ve continued to adapt, but we’re pretty tired, and the risk we have here is losing people who don’t. just haven’t had time to breathe,” he said.

Comments are closed.