Attendees of the 2019 Ottawa Tourism Awards got a chance to shed their boring business suits and make a statement — one that was both proud and plaid — as this year's gala dress code called for red-and-black lumberjack chic.
The Aberdeen Pavilion, located at Lansdowne Park, welcomed some 240 local tourism leaders Thursday night for a fun night that recognized local businesses and individuals who achieved excellence and success in 2018.
The awards dinner, organized by Ottawa Tourism and led by Karen Best, never once felt stodgy. It featured continual live music, a Thyme & Again cooking demonstration, a buffet-style dinner and cozy sofa seating supplied by LouLou Lounge.
The awards ceremony included a total of 17 finalists in four major categories.
The New Company of the Year award was won by Le Boat, a self-drive luxury boat rental that allows tourists to cruise along the Rideau Canal Waterway. It was a finalist with Artist in Residence Distillerie and Le Germain Hotel Ottawa.
The Tourism Partnership award went to C’est Bon Cooking and Escape Bicycle Tours & Rentals for their guided bike and food tours, called Bike & Bites. Also a finalist in their category were: Escapade Music Festival; Music & Beyond and Thirteen Strings Chamber Orchestra; and TD Ottawa Jazz Festival for the OLG Play North Series presented by Air North.
There was a tie for Event of the Year, with the award going to Escapade Music Festival and Ottawa Chamberfest. Saunders Farm, located in the village of Munster, and the St. Lawrence Parks Commission were also finalists.
The Ottawa Art Gallery took home the hardware for New Visitor Experience. Coincidentally, the public gallery is about to celebrate the one-year anniversary of its grand reopening. It was able to grow five times in size as part of a greater downtown revitalization project. Over the past year, the OAG welcomed more than 350,000 visitors. Other finalists in its category included Calypso Waterpark, C’est Bon Cooking and Escape Bicycle Tours & Rentals, Chelsea Pub, Escape Manor and Le Boat.
Recognized as this year’s Tourism Champion was Jonathon Harris, tourism industry adviser with the Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport.
Colin Morrison, general manager at the Ottawa Embassy Hotel & Suites and board chair of the Ottawa Gatineau Hotel Association, won the Don Blakslee Hotelier of the Year award for his outstanding leadership. The room heard how Morrison makes himself accessible on a moment’s notice, always handles himself in a professional way and is full of valuable and insightful advice.
Tourism creates more than 43,000 jobs in the region, making it the second-largest source of private sector jobs in the community. As well, visitors spend $2.2 billion annually supporting services, stores, retailers and hotels.
As for all the naysayers — those folks who predicted the industry would suffer a nasty hangover following the plethora of Canada 150 parties — they were wrong, according to Ottawa Tourism president and CEO Michael Crockatt.
“There was no ‘hangover’ in this city,” said Crockatt at the podium, while sporting a red-and-black checkered bowtie. “In 2018, we held on to almost all of the visitation growth that we saw in that record year of 2017.
“The people and organizations that we’re celebrating tonight are testament to the fact that our city is an incredible tourism city.”
The room also heard from Ross Meredith, chair of the Ottawa Tourism board of directors and general manager of The Westin Ottawa hotel, as well as from Mayor Jim Watson. As a former chief executive of the Canadian Tourism Commission, the mayor holds the tourism sector “near and dear" to his heart.
Watson quoted the late, great Jean Pigott, who used to say that every Canadian should consider Ottawa their second hometown. It's a town — by the way — that's about to hit one million residents. A sign-unveiling ceremony has been planned for next month to mark the milestone, the room heard.
Anna Verozub, a student in Algonquin College’s School of Hospitality and Tourism, received the annual Ottawa Tourism Scholarship while Hans Tammemagi won the Ottawa Tourism Travel Writing award and Hannah Manning landed the Ottawa Tourism Social Media Influencer award.
Colette Latour of the Sheraton Ottawa Hotel was congratulated for being named the 2018 Star of the City.