Hoteliers hope staycationers flock to Bluesfest-curated ‘room service’ concerts

Mark Monahan
Mark Monahan

Local music-lovers, don’t despair: Bluesfest’s Long Road Back concert originally slated for this weekend at Lansdowne Park might be on hold due to COVID-19 restrictions, but festival organizers and Ottawa Tourism are giving you another reason to cheer.

The two groups announced Thursday they’re teaming up to offer a series of live and pre-recorded shows that will be streamed to guests at participating hotels in the Ottawa region. Patrons who book staycations will be able to watch the performances from their rooms.

The Room Service Concert Series will consist of eight shows, mostly on Fridays and Saturdays, from April 9-30, featuring acts such as Great Big Sea frontman Alan Doyle, comedian Gerry Dee and American rock band Third Eye Blind. 

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Concerts will begin at 7 p.m. and won’t require any special log-ins ​– guests can simply turn on their sets and enjoy the show.

“We’ve pulled out all the stops to provide memorable weekend experiences,” Bluesfest executive director Mark Monahan said in a statement. “While we wait to enjoy in-person events again, we’ve found a way to scratch that itch for a shared entertainment experience by bringing together a variety of great artists for hotel patrons to enjoy.”

Live Q&A sessions

Guests at the 20 participating hotels will get a few additional perks, including live Q&A sessions with some of the artists and a “second-screen experience” for those who bring laptops.

With hotel occupancy rates stuck in the low double digits at most Ottawa properties, tourism officials hope the concert series can help give the pandemic-battered hospitality sector a boost.

“This is meant for Ottawans who have had a long, tough go of it,” Jantine Van Kregten, Ottawa Tourism’s director of communications, told OBJ this week. “We’re saying to them, ‘If your circumstances permit, here’s a safe way for you to have a staycation, have a new experience.’”

The marketing agency says up to a third of the 43,000 people previously employed in the capital’s tourism sector have lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic. The organization estimates that total visitor spending in Ottawa plummeted from $2.2 billion in 2019 to about $800 million last year, adding it expects only a slight improvement in 2021.

Still, any creative ways of driving a bit of extra traffic to local hotels are welcome news for the industry, said Brookstreet Hotel general manager Nyle Kelly, whose Kanata property is one of the host venues for the series.

“It’s going to be a really cool, unique offering for people to get out of their homes, go have some in-room dining and enjoy the facilities they’re at,” he said. 

“There’s still a demand out there for people to do little staycations in a safe environment and just get out of their house. I think we’ll do OK with this. People are just craving some entertainment.”

Kelly said the Brookstreet has fared comparatively well this winter since many visiting NHL clubs stay at the resort, which is located just a few minutes away from the Canadian Tire Centre. Its occupancy rate has been hovering around 35 per cent the past few weeks, about half what it would typically be at this time of year.

With the hotel’s patio now open and its golf club, the Marshes, getting set for the start of another season, Kelly is hopeful that better days are ahead.

“I think we’re going to have a very busy summer on the leisure side of things,” he said. “As more things open up, there’s going to be a lot more demand to come here and enjoy the overall facility.”

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