As Canada moves out of the COVID-19 pandemic era, new data from commercial real estate firm Avison Young shows Ottawa leads the country in increased foot traffic as more people return to the office, shop in-store, head back to class, and venture out for events.
The latest data comes from the firm’s refreshed Vitality Index, which tracks weekly foot traffic in North America across industries such as the office sector, retail, hospitality and tourism, food services, and colleges and universities.
Since Ontario lifted pandemic restrictions in May, foot traffic in the nation’s capital is up 105 per cent as of the week of Sept. 19, making it the best-performing Canadian city when isolating these time periods. Toronto, by comparison, is up 80 per cent.
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Data for the week of Sept. 19 shows Ottawa is the fourth-best performing market among all North American cities since the week preceding the first pandemic lockdown in March 2020, with foot traffic up 20 per cent when isolating those dates.
Edmonton leads all cities surveyed with an increase of 51 per cent, while Calgary increased by 23 per cent and Montreal rose by 11 per cent.
According to the Vitality Index, education and retail properties reported some of the strongest foot traffic increases across the country when isolating these time periods.
Since this past Labour Day weekend, Ottawa, Toronto and Calgary have been the most active, up 13.6 per cent, 13.4 per cent and 13.2 per cent respectively, as of the week of Sept. 19.
Avison Young CEO Mark Rose says this is a moment in time where culture is driving foot traffic patterns, as foot traffic has shown to be highest on weekends for leisure activities, such as shopping, sporting events and concerts, yet lower on weekdays, which correlates with office work and the hybrid work model many companies have adopted.
The data comes as other studies suggest Ottawa is lagging behind other big Canadian cities when it comes to workers returning to the office in a post-pandemic world.
A Statistics Canada survey from earlier this year revealed that nearly 46 per cent of Ottawa’s labour force was still working from home, the highest rate in the country. By comparison, in Toronto just 35 per cent of workers were staying home.
In addition, Ottawa also finished far down the list in a joint study between the University of Toronto and the University of California, Berkeley that compared mobile device usage in 62 major North American cities at downtown sites like bars and restaurants between March and May of this year and the same time period in 2019.
The researchers found that downtown Ottawa had returned to only 48 per cent of pre-pandemic levels of activity, placing it 46th overall.
– With additional reporting from OBJ staff