As pandemic restrictions begin to lift and Ottawans start contemplating expanding their horizons for the first time in 15+ months, the city’s tourism businesses are cautiously optimistic that they will be able to extend their hospitality to visitors as the year continues.
As the agency tasked with promoting Ottawa to vacationers, meeting planners, tour operators, travel media, and organizers of major events, Ottawa Tourism has used the time of the pandemic to rethink its approach to reflect the new reality.
“We worked to secure resources to help our business members make it through the pandemic, while also spending time building the foundation for tourism’s recovery,” says Michael Crockatt, Ottawa Tourism’s President and CEO. “We are a data-driven organization with a skilled and engaged board and creative member businesses. Our team is ready to implement the strategies we’ve developed over the past months.”
Observant followers on social media will have seen a gradual shift in Ottawa Tourism’s approach, reflecting a brand crafted through real-world data on how Ottawa is perceived by locals and outsiders. As Canada’s capital, Ottawa plays a unique role in sharing Canada’s stories: from its role as a traditional meeting and trading place for First Nations peoples, its wealth of national museums and institutions, and its bilingual nature to its four-season outdoor activities, thriving foodie and craft beer scenes, and welcoming and inclusive values.
Before the pandemic, 43,000 people were employed by the tourism industry in Ottawa and visitors to the region contributed $2.2 billion in spending to the local economy. In 2020, $1.4 billion of that spending was lost; with the same amount of loss predicted for 2021
Ottawa truly is Canada in one city.
In its research, Ottawa Tourism found that Ottawans are incredibly proud of their city but don’t always express that pride in a public way. Through its promotions and social media activities, especially its use of the #MyOttawa hashtag, the agency encourages people to share their pride.
Before the pandemic, 43,000 people were employed by the tourism industry in Ottawa and visitors to the region contributed $2.2 billion in spending to the local economy. In 2020, $1.4 billion of that spending was lost; with the same amount of loss predicted for 2021.
While that is a dire situation, there are steps that can be taken to improve conditions. In fact, if each household in Ottawa were to invite just two people to spend three nights in Ottawa sometime in 2021, that would inject half a billion dollars into the local economy and support the equivalent of 1,500 jobs. Small individual actions can generate huge cumulative results.
Local Ottawans can keep informed on what’s happening by subscribing to Ottawa Tourism’s weekly emailer—What’s Happening in the Ottawa Area—that highlights a dozen or so available activities over the next seven days.
Ottawa Tourism also launched—originally in April 2021—the Room Service Concert Series: An Ottawa Hotel Exclusive at 20 participating hotels. Ontario’s stay-at-home order meant the promotion had to be postponed until now. RBC Ottawa Bluesfest curated eight nights of music and comedy programming over four weekends between June 18 and July 10, 2021 that is exclusively available through the televisions in the rooms of those hotels. Residents are encouraged to book a getaway in a different part of town, order in some food, and enjoy performances by Lennon Stella, Colin James, Walk Off The Earth, and more!
The beauty of Room Service is its flexibility: with 20 hotels to choose from, people can splurge or save, or hang out in a new-to-them part of the city. Those who want to have a meal on a patio can do so, while others may prefer to order in. Guests can bring their bikes and explore a new pathway, or stay downtown and explore the ByWard Market neighbourhood, or Elgin Street, or Sparks Street. Their reward is an exclusive concert!
And while leisure visits may rebound somewhat in 2021, as vaccinations continue and restrictions are lifted, the meetings and conventions and major events fields will be slower to recover. Ottawa Tourism encourages those who are active in professional associations, or who regularly attend training sessions or other conventions, to contemplate hosting those events here in Ottawa and showcasing their own expertise. People don’t need to be a professional meeting planner either to make it happen: Ottawa Tourism can help prepare a successful bid and provide resources to make the journey easier.
The same goes for sporting events across the spectrum: from children’s tournaments to prestigious international competitions, Ottawa has the resources and the expertise to host the world and Ottawa Tourism and its partners can help make it happen.
The festivals industry is another aspect of tourism that will be a bit slower to recover, though many Ottawa festivals have made successful pivots to virtual editions, including the Canadian Tulip Festival and the Summer Solstice Indigenous Festival to just name two.
So as Ottawans contemplate travelling again, they are also encouraged to invite friends, relatives, and business associates to visit Ottawa, where the tourism industry is waiting with open arms to share amazing experiences in a safe and sustainable way.