Ottawa Tourism in line for $5.2M to help 'bring visitors back to the National Capital Region'

Parliament Hill dusk
Photo by Robbie Palmer

Ottawa’s main tourism marketing agency will receive millions of dollars in federal funding as part of a campaign to kickstart the beleaguered hospitality industry.

Economic development minister Melanie Joly said Sunday the federal government will give Ottawa Tourism up to $5.2 million to help “bring visitors back to the National Capital Region as the economy reopens.”

The cash influx comes from a $962-million fund being delivered through Canada’s regional economic development agencies. FedDev Ontario is doling out $213 million to tourism marketing agencies across the province.

An Ottawa Tourism spokesperson said Monday the agency is “still working out the specifics of the program,” adding “any financial support for our industry is very much needed and appreciated.”

The funding announcement comes during a difficult time for the hard-hit tourism industry, which has been rocked by measures aimed at curbing the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Visitors pump more than $2.2 billion a year into Ottawa’s economy, and the city’s tourism industry employs more than 43,000 people. Last week, Ottawa Tourism president and CEO Michael Crockatt said the local industry stands to lose up to $1.4 billion in visitor spending in 2020 as travel has all but ground to a halt during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a typical year, the National Capital Region attracts about 11 million tourists, 90 per cent of them from within Canada and the vast majority from Ontario and Quebec.

Crockatt said tourism will likely have a “hyperlocal” focus once Canadians resume travelling because many people may be reluctant to venture long distances. 

“This might actually work in Ottawa’s favour,” he said, noting the capital is within a few hours’ drive of Canada’s two largest cities. He said his organization’s research shows that outdoor recreation activities are at the top of many travellers’ wish lists, adding that’s an area of strength the region needs to capitalize on.

Ottawa Tourism derives much of its $23-million annual budget from accommodation levies charged to hotel guests and other funding from various levels of government. With hotels virtually empty at the moment, Crockatt said last week he expects income at Ottawa Tourism to drop as much as 70 per cent in 2020. The agency employs 39 people.