Overseas visitors to Ottawa-Gatineau up more than 8%

While Canadians from across the country are expected to travel to Ottawa next year to celebrate the nation’s 150th anniversary, new figures show tourists from further afield are also taking an increasing interest in visiting Canada’s capital.

On Wednesday, the Conference Board of Canada released a new tourism outlook report that projected Ottawa-Gatineau will see a 4.9 per cent increase in overnight visitors to reach 5.57 million next year. That’s the second-highest relative increase, just behind Montreal at five per cent, among the nine metropolitan areas studied by the think tank.

Leisure travellers in particular are expected to flock to Ottawa in larger numbers to attend a year-long series of special events, festivals and major sporting events such as the Grey Cup coinciding with the anniversary of Confederation.

Residents living in other parts of Canada represent more than four out of every five visitors to Ottawa-Gatineau and are projected to continue to constitute the bulk of the city’s tourists in the coming years, according to the Conference Board of Canada, citing Statistics Canada data.

But at the same time, the think tank says the number of tourists visiting Ottawa-Gatineau from overseas will jump 8.6 per cent this year and climb an additional 8.2 per cent next year.

The number of overseas visitors is still relatively small, adding up to approximately 430,000 individuals this year compared to 406,000 from the United States and 4.47 million from elsewhere in Canada.

However, international tourists are highly coveted because they tend to spend more on hotels, restaurants and shopping than a visitor from a nearby city.

While some of those international arrivals may be business travellers, Ottawa Tourism has long courted overseas tourists, particularly those from China.

Guy Laflamme, the executive director of the Ottawa 2017 Bureau, which is organizing many of next year’s 150th anniversary festivities, says he’s expecting additional tourists from Scotland, Ireland, England and France to visit Ottawa next year.

“We will have a (large) contingent of people from Great Britain and France because of their emotional attachment (to Canada)” that stems in part from the historical role those countries played in the founding of modern-day Canada, he told OBJ.

Mr. Laflamme said he’s already seen a heightened interest in Ottawa from journalists in those countries surrounding the 2017 celebrations.

While the Conference Board of Canada focuses on overnight visitors, the 2017 Bureau also includes same-day tourists and those who stay with friends and relatives.

By its calculations, Ottawa will see an additional 1.75 million visitors in 2017, on top of the seven million to eight million that the city receives in a typical year.