Tourism Industry Gears Up for Winter
Readers of this magazine are members of Ottawa’s local business community, but they are also residents. Their businesses’ ability to attract and retain employees is closely tied to the experience of being a resident in Ottawa. And that’s why the things that make Ottawa a better place to live, work, and visit, are crucial to their bottom line. Tourism is a shared community asset that improves Ottawa’s appeal, amenities, and reduces resident tax burden, all of which are important to readers both as business leaders and as residents of this city.
This year, the winter season will present an important opportunity for the tourism industry in Ottawa. The pent-up demand for travel, along with the possibility of travellers who would normally go south this winter choosing to explore destinations closer to home, might mean new interest in domestic travel in the coming season both from regional drive markets and from our local residents, assuming public health guidance supports it.
That is not guaranteed, of course, in this most unusual year, in which overall visitation plummeted and in which visitor spending in Ottawa is projected to drop by $1.4 billion from the $2.2 billion spent in a more typical year. The visitor economy has been one of the hardest hit industries, with local tourism businesses facing one of the most difficult years on record—filled with layoffs, months of lost revenue, and one of the steepest hills to face for recovery. The industry needs to work together to make the most out of this next quarter, while adhering to government health and safety protocols and making customers feel safe and welcome.
As winter approaches, local businesses will continue to offer innovative ways to experience the city safely. For example, restaurants continue to improve their patios to still be accessible in colder weather, such as Kichesippi Beer Company’s suggestion to “BYOB – Bring Your Own Blanket,” or have expanded their takeout and delivery options. Museums continue to offer innovative programming, and performances have been able to pivot to offer virtual concerts when in-person events are not possible.
Outdoor experiences like the SJAM Winter Trail, refrigerated outdoor skating rinks, and winter sports options will soon tempt residents and visitors off their couches. The Ottawa Christmas Market, Christmas Lights Across Canada, Rideau Canal Skateway, and Winterlude will also encourage people to embrace the outdoors in a safe way. Attractions in rural Ottawa offer a way for locals to get a change of scenery without travelling too far from home, as more than ever this year Ottawans are in search of more space, fresh air, and neat, unexplored pockets of the city, presenting the opportunity for increased “hyperlocal” tourism.
The hospitality industry embraces the protocols introduced to slow the pandemic: contact tracing, increased sanitation, mask-wearing, and physical distancing are all part of the new normal in order to keep staff, residents, and visitors safe.
That is why Ottawa Tourism is still sharing stories and promoting experiences: to help protect the economic wellbeing of the community. There has been support from all levels of government for the tourism sector, and Ottawa Tourism continues to advocate for the industry municipally, provincially, and federally.
But Ottawa Tourism needs your help to bring more visitors to Ottawa when it is safe to do so – to invite your friends and families for a weekend away, but also to host your kids’ sports tournaments or your association’s convention once larger events are possible. In the meantime, any opportunity to support local businesses must be seized, as locals are a lifeline for those small businesses until visitation can return to more normal levels. This is integral to the survival of the tourism industry which typically employs 43,000 Ottawans—your neighbours, your friends, maybe even yourself.