For social columnists, attending a party for the hospitality industry is a dream come true. Not only is every door politely held open for you but every guest wears a name tag clearly identifying who they are and for whom they work.
Last Thursday's holiday party hosted by Ottawa Tourism was no different. A crowd of about 200 staff, industry partners and supporters filled the Lowertown Brewery in the ByWard Market for a night of mixing and mingling.
If the mood seemed particularly celebratory it was because our city is coming off a banner tourism year. Ottawa was a national hotspot thanks to all the activities organized for Canada’s 150th anniversary.
“I still pinch myself every morning, waking up knowing that I’ve got the best job in town working with the best team in the country,” Ottawa Tourism president and CEO Michael Crockatt told the room during his brief remarks.
He gave a tip of the tuque to Mayor Jim Watson for his vision and his leadership.
“We know how lucky we are to have you as our mayor," said Crockatt.
Watson was president and CEO of the Canadian Tourism Commission in the early 2000s.
“This has been a very special year in terms of the number of big events and the number of eyeballs on Ottawa and the amount of attention on Ottawa,” said Crockatt, who's predicting 2017 will go down as a “turning point” for the city.
“In the future, when we look back on 2017, we’re going to look at it as a pretty significant time in our history for tourism.”
OBJ.social wanted to know which event from this past year was Crockatt's favourite.
"It is impossible to pick out one because there were so many but I think the one I hope remains in people's minds is La Machine," he responded.
The Ottawa 2017 Signature Event saw giant mechanical creatures in the form of a dragon and a spider make their way through the downtown core in late July, in the presence of thousands of spectators.
It was a good year for the hotel industry, confirmed Colin Morrison, general manager of the Embassy Hotel & Suites and chair of the board for the Ottawa Gatineau Hotel Association (OGHA).
“It started off a little slow but we made up for it in the end,” Morrison told OBJ.social. “Mother nature didn’t do us any favours. July was a very wet month, as was June and May, but the guests still came.
“Really, it’s almost like La Machine scared the clouds away because, from that point on, it was a great time.”
Morrison said, of all the events, he was probably most impressed by the Red Bull Crashed Ice sports event that got Ottawa all excited back in early March. Scaffolding was erected. Giant ice slides were installed. Huge crowds turned out to watch the event, between the Château Laurier hotel and Parliament Hill. Never mind that it was free-ee-zing cold. "That was a phenomenal event," he stated.
Of course, the year’s not over, yet. That afternoon, Ottawa Tourism’s director of communications and media relations, Jantine Van Kregten, skated with local media on the Canada 150 Rink on Parliament Hill, on its first day of operation.
“You’re literally skating on Parliament Hill, hearing the Peace Tower chime every quarter hour," she said of her experience. Moreover, songs by The Tragically Hip, Blue Rodeo, Neil Young and others were playing over the sound system.
“Everyone had huge smiles on their faces," Van Kregten enthused. “It was just such a cool experience, and all I could think of is: Where else in the world would this happen? On the White House lawn? No. In Red Square? I don’t think so.”
The rink is hosting varies ice sports demonstrations and activities, including an Ottawa Senators alumni game this Friday night. The attraction will stick around until Feb. 25. Members of the public are free to skate on the ice, provided they book ahead of time.
Other attendees included Michael Tremblay, CEO of Invest Ottawa, Ottawa Chamber of Commerce’s chief executive, Ian Faris, and Peggy DuCharme, executive director of the Downtown Rideau BIA. She was with artist Nick Glynn, of Glynn Brothers Art, whose public art can be spotted on mural boxes along the east end of Rideau Street.