Ottawa-Gatineau likely won’t see as many new tourists as the rest of the country this year, but a new report from the Conference Board of Canada says the positive reception from last year’s sesquicentennial celebrations will help to spur modest growth for the near future.
The National Capital Region will see an estimated 11.8 million visitors in 2018, according to the Conference Board’s annual tourism market outlook, an increase of 1.1 per cent from last year. Roughly 5.6 million visits are expected to be overnight, representing growth of about 1.3 per cent year-over-year.
That expected growth in overnight visits ranks the region as the lowest of 10 metropolitan areas covered in the report. Nationally, growth in overnight visits is expected to reach 2.6 per cent this year.
The Conference Board notes that slower growth should be expected for the capital following a successful 2017 that saw a 5.6 per cent increase in overnight visits. It adds that the exposure from Canada 150 celebrations should contribute to higher visitor volumes for years to come.
While tourism from the rest of the country and the United States is expected to rise slightly, Ottawa-Gatineau should see its largest increase from international visitors. Overseas visits are projected to rise 6.1 per cent in 2018, a trend expected to continue for the next few years.
Part of what’s driving the national rise in overseas visits this year is the Canada-China Year of Tourism, a bilateral attempt to foster more travel between the two countries. Last year in the National Capital Region, China represented the single largest source of overseas tourists, with 16.2 per cent of visitors coming from the country.
Ottawa Tourism has specifically geared programming to target the Chinese market in recent months. In March, the local tourism agency introduced an incentive program for Chinese tour operators, offering financial incentives if companies raised the number of annual visitors they brought to the city.
The Conference Board highlighted other Ottawa Tourism campaigns, such as a bid to attract millennial visitors from the Greater Toronto Area, as additional drivers of tourism growth for the region.