Ottawa 2017 invests in marketing initiative for city's festivals

The Ottawa 2017 Bureau will invest $250,000 in a marketing and outreach campaign to boost the city’s festivals throughout Canada’s 150th birthday year, Mayor Jim Watson announced Thursday.


The program, which was designed and will be managed by Ottawa Festivals, will feature marketing initiatives that include creating a Festival Ambassador program. The program will be designed to share information about all festivals with residents and visitors during peak tourist season.


“When people arrive here, having an ambassador program that lets them know there’s a festival going on just across the street from their hotel, or down the road, it’s going to drive sales into their gates and that helps the bottom line of festivals,” Mr. Watson said.

When the provincial government last month announced $2.2 million for Ottawa festivals for the 2016 season, Ottawa Festivals chair Sean Wilson said he hoped other levels of government would be jolted into action with financial support of their own.

The previous city council had unanimously approved a multi-year arts investment strategy that Mr. Wilson said is $4 million short of its target with two years left.

Mr. Watson took exception to claims from the media scrum that the program went unfunded this year.

“There was, I think, a two per cent increase in overall arts funding to the city and the festival program. This money is on top of that,” he said, adding that negotiations for more arts funding are continuing with the provincial and federal governments.

“We expect to have some news on that front in the next few weeks.”

The funding announced on the first day of the Canadian Tulip Festival is a one-time infusion of cash, with most of it coming from CIBC, Ottawa 2017’s lead sponsor, Mr. Watson said.

Still, Ottawa Festivals executive director Carole Anne Piccinin said any financial assistance is appreciated.

“Our industry is instrumental in creating jobs within the city of Ottawa,” she said. “We know that festivals contribute greatly to the quality of life, so we think that any investment in the festival industry is a smart investment.”

She said the program has been designed to promote the city’s festivals, special events and fairs for 2017 and beyond.

“This program … will help to shine a brighter spotlight on our amazing industry that delivers events all year, year-in and year-out to millions that will further heighten Ottawa’s profile as the world-class festival and events destination that it truly is,” she said.

The local festival industry has voiced concerns it was getting lost in the 2017 preparations, but Alta Vista Coun. Jean Cloutier, co-chair of the city’s 2017 task force, said festivals will be a main focus of an upcoming tourism conference at the Shaw Centre May 30.

The conference will be looking at ways to avoid the so-called “2017 hangover.”

“Tourism is the third-largest industry in Ottawa and we need it to continue afterwards and to grow post-2017,” he said.