Ottawa airport planning hotel, $25M renovations to meet travel demand

airport revamp
Rendering of the proposed renovation to the Ottawa international airport terminal.

A major redevelopment project that will see $25 million in renovations to the Ottawa international airport terminal and a new hotel next door is yet another sign that the capital’s tourism sector keeps gaining momentum from 2017, industry officials say.

Under the plan, the airport will expand its food court and retail services and move passenger security screening from the second to the third floor. A new hotel with between 150 and 200 rooms will also be built south of the parking garage that is attached to the airport.

Construction on the airport renovations is expected to start next spring after the winning bidder of the concession contract is announced, airport spokeswoman Krista Kealey told OBJ on Tuesday. She said the airport authority is currently in the “final stages” of negotiations with a hotel operator, and construction on that project is also scheduled to begin in 2019 and take up to two years.

In addition, a $20-million light-rail station at the airport is slated to be finished by 2023 as part of phase two of the LRT.

Kealey said the 15-year-old terminal was designed to handle a volume of five million passengers a year, a mark it nearly reached in 2017, and the facility needs to be redesigned to accommodate an ever-increasing flow of travellers.

“It’s a growing city,” she said. “We need to keep up with the (passenger) demand. We’re meeting that expanded need.”

The airport renovation will occur in stages, beginning with the construction of a new third-floor space for passenger screening. The entire project is expected to take up to three years to complete, and Kealey said the airport will do everything it can to minimize disruption to passengers.

“It’ll all be staged very, very carefully,” she said.

airport revamp
Rendering of the proposed concessions space to the Ottawa international airport terminal.

Currently, passengers check in their luggage on the third floor of the terminal, then go down an escalator to the screening area a floor below. Under the new system, security screening will take place in the area now occupied by the food court, with an expanded space for restaurants and bars being relocated to the second floor.

Kealey said the new format will provide more room for new security technology and make passenger screening more efficient and comfortable for travellers.

“Things can get very crowded,” she said of the current configuration. “There are a lot of issues around wait times for pre-board screening.”

She also said the revamped foot court will provide new eating and drinking options for passengers, noting many of the current offerings haven’t changed since the terminal first opened in 2003.

“They’ve served us well, but it’s time to make a change,” Kealey said.

Tourism momentum

Ottawa Tourism CEO Michael Crockatt praised the new plans, saying they’re yet another sign that the National Capital Region is coming into its own as a travel hotspot.

“(The airport) is the first impression (visitors) have of our community and often the last impression they have of our community, so it’s important that that brand of Ottawa, that experience that we want people to have is extended right through the airport experience as well,” Crockatt said from Windsor airport, where he was set to board a flight back to the capital.

“It’s a sign of that momentum and that evolution, not only of the airport, but of Ottawa as a city and Ottawa as a destination. It’s an exciting time.”

Kealey agreed.

“The hangover from (Canada) 150 didn’t happen,” she said. “Tourism is still seeing the numbers and we are as well. That’s really great news for our region.”