Le Boat, OAG, Chamberfest, Escapade and Bike & Bites score big at 2019 Ottawa Tourism Awards

Industry awards ceremony and dinner celebrates local businesses and individuals who achieved excellence and success in 2018
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Attendees of the 2019 Ottawa Tourism Awards got a chance to shed their boring business suits and make a statement — one that was both proud and plaid — as this year's gala dress code called for red-and-black lumberjack chic. 

The Aberdeen Pavilion, located at Lansdowne Park, welcomed some 240 local tourism leaders Thursday night for a fun night that recognized local businesses and individuals who achieved excellence and success in 2018. 

The awards dinner, organized by Ottawa Tourism and led by Karen Best, never once felt stodgy. It featured continual live music, a Thyme & Again cooking demonstration, a buffet-style dinner and cozy sofa seating supplied by LouLou Lounge.

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Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson on stage at the Ottawa Tourism Awards, held Thursday, April 25, 2019, at the Aberdeen Pavilion at Lansdowne. Photo by Caroline Phillips

The awards ceremony included a total of 17 finalists in four major categories.

The New Company of the Year award was won by Le Boat, a self-drive luxury boat rental that allows tourists to cruise along the Rideau Canal Waterway. It was a finalist with Artist in Residence Distillerie and Le Germain Hotel Ottawa.

The Tourism Partnership award went to C’est Bon Cooking and Escape Bicycle Tours & Rentals for their guided bike and food tours, called Bike & Bites. Also a finalist in their category were: Escapade Music Festival; Music & Beyond and Thirteen Strings Chamber Orchestra; and TD Ottawa Jazz Festival for the OLG Play North Series presented by Air North.

There was a tie for Event of the Year, with the award going to Escapade Music Festival and Ottawa Chamberfest. Saunders Farm, located in the village of Munster, and the St. Lawrence Parks Commission were also finalists.

The Ottawa Art Gallery took home the hardware for New Visitor Experience. Coincidentally, the public gallery is about to celebrate the one-year anniversary of its grand reopening. It was able to grow five times in size as part of a greater downtown revitalization project. Over the past year, the OAG welcomed more than 350,000 visitors. Other finalists in its category included Calypso Waterpark, C’est Bon Cooking and Escape Bicycle Tours & Rentals, Chelsea Pub, Escape Manor and Le Boat.

Recognized as this year’s Tourism Champion was Jonathon Harris, tourism industry adviser with the Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport.

Colin Morrison, general manager at the Ottawa Embassy Hotel & Suites and board chair of the Ottawa Gatineau Hotel Association, won the Don Blakslee Hotelier of the Year award for his outstanding leadership. The room heard how Morrison makes himself accessible on a moment’s notice, always handles himself in a professional way and is full of valuable and insightful advice.

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Peter Honeywell, who's retiring soon as executive director of the Ottawa Arts Council, with Alexandra Badzak, director and chief executive of the Ottawa Art Gallery, which won the New Visitor Experience award at this year's Ottawa Tourism Awards. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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Peter MacDonald, general manager of Ottawa Chamberfest — which tied as the winner of Event of the Year — seen with Philippa Wolff, head of Ottawa Chamberfest's marketing and communications, at the Ottawa Tourism Awards, held Thursday, April 25, 2019, at the Aberdeen Pavilion at Lansdowne. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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From left, Escape Manor partners and award finalists Billy Rogers, Neil Schwartz, Chris Bisson and Steve Wilson at the Ottawa Tourism Awards, held Thursday, April 25, 2019, at the Aberdeen Pavilion at Lansdowne. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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From left, Maria Rasouli, founder and operator of Escape Bicycle Tours and Rentals, with C'est Bon Cooking co-owner and general manager Stefanie Siska, who together won the Tourism Partnership award at the Ottawa Tourism Awards for their combined Bike & Bites Tours. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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From left, Mark Saunders, president of Saunders Farms, and Julian Armour, artistic and executive director of Music and Beyond, were among the 17 finalists at this year's Ottawa Tourism Awards. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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From left, Colin Morrison, winner of the Don Blakslee Hotelier of the Year award, with Steve Ball, president of The Ottawa Gatineau Hotel Association, at the Ottawa Tourism Awards. Photo by Caroline Phillips 
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From left, Jo-Anne Saikaley Harris, Laura Brown Breetvelt, Tourism Champion award winner Jonathon Harris and David Luxton, at the Ottawa Tourism Awards. Photo by Caroline Phillips 
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From left, Karen Best, director of membership for Ottawa Tourism, with Carole Saad, president of LouLou Lounge Furniture Rentals, at the 2019 Ottawa Tourism Awards, held Thursday, April 25, at the Aberdeen Pavilion at Lansdowne. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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Award-winning chef Michael Moffatt, managing partner of Thyme & Again, led a cooking demonstration during the cocktail reception at the Ottawa Tourism Awards, held Thursday, April 25, 2019, at the Aberdeen Pavilion at Lansdowne. Photo by Caroline Phillips

Tourism creates more than 43,000 jobs in the region, making it the second-largest source of private sector jobs in the community. As well, visitors spend $2.2 billion annually supporting services, stores, retailers and hotels.

As for all the naysayers — those folks who predicted the industry would suffer a nasty hangover following the plethora of Canada 150 parties — they were wrong, according to Ottawa Tourism president and CEO Michael Crockatt.

“There was no ‘hangover’ in this city,” said Crockatt at the podium, while sporting a red-and-black checkered bowtie. “In 2018, we held on to almost all of the visitation growth that we saw in that record year of 2017.

“The people and organizations that we’re celebrating tonight are testament to the fact that our city is an incredible tourism city.”

The room also heard from Ross Meredith, chair of the Ottawa Tourism board of directors and general manager of The Westin Ottawa hotel, as well as from Mayor Jim Watson. As a former chief executive of the Canadian Tourism Commission, the mayor holds the tourism sector “near and dear" to his heart.

Watson quoted the late, great Jean Pigott, who used to say that every Canadian should consider Ottawa their second hometown. It's a town — by the way — that's about to hit one million residents. A sign-unveiling ceremony has been planned for next month to mark the milestone, the room heard.

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Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson, left, with Ottawa Tourism president and CEO Michael Crockatt at the 2019 Ottawa Tourism Awards, held Thursday, April 25, at the Aberdeen Pavilion at Lansdowne. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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Chris Kincaid, vice president and COO of Mediaplus Advertising, with Ottawa Tourism board chair Ross Meredith at the 2019 Ottawa Tourism Awards, held Thursday, April 25, at the Aberdeen Pavilion at Lansdowne. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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Ottawa Board of Trade president and CEO Ian Faris at the Ottawa Tourism Awards with Lise Sarazin, director general of RGA. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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From left, Michael Tarnowski, chair of the School of Hospitality and Tourism at Algonquin College, with Peggy Austen, acting director of the Algonquin College Foundation, and Jim Kyte, dean of the School of Hospitality and Tourism, at the lumberjack chic-themed Ottawa Tourism Awards. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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From left, MJ Brown and Jenny Dao, with event management company Ottawa Venues, took the "lumberjack chic" dress code seriously for this year's Ottawa Tourism Awards, held Thursday, April 25, 2019, at the Aberdeen Pavilion at Lansdowne. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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That's Benoit Gatien, with the crew from Escape Manor, sporting his red-and-black fur trapper hat at the Ottawa Tourism Awards, which featured a "lumberjack chic" dress code. Photo by Caroline Phillips

Anna Verozub, a student in Algonquin College’s School of Hospitality and Tourism, received the annual Ottawa Tourism Scholarship while Hans Tammemagi won the Ottawa Tourism Travel Writing award and Hannah Manning landed the Ottawa Tourism Social Media Influencer award.

Colette Latour of the Sheraton Ottawa Hotel was congratulated for being named the 2018 Star of the City.

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Algonquin College student Anna Verozub, flanked by, on the left, Michael Tarnowski, from the college's School of Hospitality and Tourism, and Glenn Duncan, senior vice president and chief marketing officer for Ottawa Tourism, at the Ottawa Tourism Awards. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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Alexandra Badzak, right, from the Ottawa Art Gallery accepts the New Visitor Experience award from Fabienne Nadeau, head of operations, sales and marketing at the Casino and Hilton Lac-Leamy, at the 2019 Ottawa Tourism Awards. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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From left, Colette Latour from the Sheraton Ottawa — seen with Gemma van Breeman from Mediaplus Advertising — was named 2018 Star of the City at this year's Ottawa Tourism Awards. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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From left,  Ali Shafaee, director of partnerships at Escapade Music Festival, accepts his award for Event of the Year from Ottawa Magazine's new publisher, Duncan Clark, at the Ottawa Tourism Awards, held Thursday, April 25, 2019, at the Aberdeen Pavilion at Lansdowne. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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Staff from Ottawa Tourism, which coordinated the 2019 Ottawa Tourism Awards, gather on stage for a group photo after the awards ceremony. Photo by Caroline Phillips

— caroline@obj.ca