MONTREAL -- Montreal’s downtown core is just a shadow of itself this summer, for obvious reasons.

Businesses there have been hit harder by the pandemic than those in most residential neighbourhoods. Only 5 per cent of people who used to work downtown are there now, the Montreal Chamber of Commerce found in a recent survey. 

Normally, downtown sees a flow of 11 million tourists in a single year, spending a combined $4 billion. That’s almost entirely gone, too.

The survey found that 76 per cent of downtown merchants are “very worried” about their future.

But the city believes it can get some business back downtown, safely, to help businesses survive. 

It’s going to spend $400,000 on new public patios and activities to encourage picnicking and distanced recreation. It will commission performances by artists and have exhibits as part of a relaunch effort to bring families downtown.

“The customers are not there, the workers are not there, we know there's very few tourists, and there's no foreign students coming early in the summer for the preparation of the fall sessions,” said Michel Leblanc of the Montreal Chamber of Commerce. 

Another part of the plan? Doing the reverse of most of the “rediscover Quebec” marketing campaigns, which show the regions, and try to convince rural Quebecers to rediscover Montreal instead.

Ads have already circulated in Quebec City, Sherbrooke, the Saguenay and other regions to ask locals to come visit.