Skip to main content
Québec City in winter

In Québec City, incentives take on a distinct flavour

In Québec City, incentives take on a distinct flavour

Winter in Canada is magical. Storied buildings and snowy cobblestone streets. Invigorating mountain adventures. Cozy evenings spent around the warmth of a bonfire. One place that quintessentially captures the charm of the season: Québec City, the host of Destination Canada’s second annual Incentive Canada Winter.

Incentive Canada Winter gave 14 international incentive buyers the opportunity to experience thrilling winter adventures, unparalleled culinary experiences and enriching cultural activities from February 5 to 8, 2023.

Showcasing authentic, only-in-Canada experiences

During Incentive Canada Winter, Destination Canada, alongside partners at Québec City Business Destination and Fairmont Le Château Frontenac, showed clients a host of unique activities that make the ultimate incentive reward to celebrate employees.

One highlight was an afternoon spent at a cabane à sucre (a local sugar shack), where maple syrup is made . As guests quickly discovered, they had come to the right place: about 80 per cent of the world’s maple syrup is produced in Canada.

cabane à sucre, Québec City

Upon arriving, they sat at long tables filled with traditional and hearty Québécois dishes — including maple syrup-infused meatballs and split pea soup — while listening to a joyful melody of fiddles, accordions and wooden spoons, as Famille Painchaud, the most famous traditional Québec  musicians, performed. Afterward, everyone learned how maple syrup is made, a process that involves collecting sap from maple trees and boiling it into maple syrup. They then enjoyed a traditional dessert, called tire d'érable, which consists of maple taffy poured onto snow and then rolled onto sticks.

“All of the activities were memorable. But if I had to pick a favourite it would be the sugar shack, as the experience was so well aligned to local Québec, super fun and, of course, delicious!” recalled Ami-Lee Benton, Account Manager at Ashfield Event Experiences. “I can’t wait to have the opportunity to plan a program there in the future and introduce clients to this beautiful city.”

Attendees also had their choice of several outdoor activities. Many opted for canot à glace (ice canoeing)  — the only place in the world that it’s offered. After guides taught attendees the secrets to rowing, they set out on the St. Lawrence River, where large patches of ice turned the river into an exhilarating playground.

Canot à glace (ice canoeing) in Québec City

“From the charm and history of the Fairmont Le Château Frontenac to the energetic and sweet afternoon at the sugar shack, Québec City offered many memorable experiences,” said Stephanie Pohren, AVP, Sales – East Region, ITA Group. “Perhaps most exciting (and chilling!) of all was the canot à glace activity on the St. Lawrence — which was so unique to the region that I now have a winter sport story like no other to share with my friends.”

Equally as exhilarating, ice climbing at Montmorency Falls — which is home to one of the most-climbed ice routes in Québec. Only a 10-minute drive from Québec City, guests experienced the thrill of a lifetime as they ascended a 120-metre wall of ice guided by famous climber, François  Guy Thivierge. An adventurer and mountaineer from Québec, François is one of the rare individuals to have conquered the highest peak of each of the seven continents and skied both poles.

Other guests relaxed and rejuvenated at the acclaimed Strøm Nordic Spa, located in Old Québec. They enjoyed a spa service of their choice, and infinity pool overlooking the glaciers in the St. Lawrence River.

Of course, a top draw to being in Québec City in February is attending one of the world’s largest winter festivals: Carnaval. The weeklong event includes ice sculpting, colourful night parades and the famous ice canoe race. After enjoying a gourmet, multi-course dinner at the exclusive restaurant, Taniere, Incentive Canada guests made their way to the first-ever after-hours experience of Carnaval. It kicked off with the chance to meet Bonhomme, the jolly seven-foot-tall snowperson who is the ambassador of the winter celebration. Bundled up in his iconic red tuque and arrow sash, he took guests on a private tour of his famous ice palace.

 “Québec City wowed us,” said Steve O'Malley, EVP, COO with Maritz Global Events. “The hospitality was world class, the activities were incredibly unique and the cuisine was amazing.”

Local cultures take centre stage

One evening, Jennifer Attersall hosted an informative fireside chat with special guest Jason Picard-Binet, Owner of Bastien Industries — which has been manufacturing moccasins since 1972. From explaining the cultural significance of the moccasin to the Huron-Wendat Nation, to highlighting the power of incorporating Indigenous practices into incentive programs, the discussion broadened perspectives and offered a glimpse into diverse ways of life.

Fireside chat with Jason Picard-Binet, Owner of Bastien Industries

Jason also shared how he works with the local Indigenous community in Wendake to make moccasins, who draw on traditional knowledge passed through the generations. What’s more, everything for the moccasins is sourced locally — with the only exception being the beads. Jason also told the group about a CSR initiative that Bastien Industries is leading, which involves working with Indigenous inmates at a jail in northern Québec to teach them how to bead and to sew the moccasins.

Designed with sustainability at its core

Sustainability was top of mind throughout Incentive Canada Winter. This was the first signature event hosted by Destination Canada tracked by the TRACE program, which aims to better understand the program’s carbon footprint and support actionable changes to move toward a portfolio of carbon neutral programs.

Gifts were sustainable, too. Guests received badges made from salvaged windfallen trees and recycled wood that were engraved using a solar laser technique, which has a lighter and cleaner footprint. The Fairmont Le Château Frontenac, where guests stayed, provided them with socks made of wool, a material known for being an environmentally positive fibre choice. Welcome notes were written on seed paper — which, along with being biodegradable, has seeds embedded in it that grow and become paper compost when planted in an earthen pot.

“Incentive Canada Winter checked all the boxes for what today’s incentive clients want,” said Jennifer Attersall, Director of Incentive Travel at Destination Canada. “There was a strong sustainability component woven throughout, from helping preserve local cultures to protecting the environment. Authenticity also took centre stage, such as by shining a light on the French-Canadian culture of the sugar shack and learning about the Indigenous significance of traditional moccasins. Finally, wellness was core to our program, whether it was the physical activity of ice canoeing or climbing, or the tranquility of the spa."