Overnight tourist visits to Ottawa jump 5.5% on strength of Canada 150 celebrations

La Machine
La Machine was one of this summer's marquee events held to celebrate Canada's 150th anniversary. (Photo by Ottawa 2017 Bureau)

The number of visitors to Canada’s capital is expected to remain elevated through 2018 thanks in part to the exposure Ottawa gained from the festivities held this year marking the country’s 150th anniversary, according to a new report.

The Conference Board of Canada said this week that the number of overnight visitors to Ottawa climbed 5.5 per cent to 5.37 million individuals in 2017. The think tank said it expects those numbers to not only be sustained next year, but actually increase 1.5 per cent to 5.45 million.

These figures mean Ottawa recorded the largest relative increase in overnight visitors this year among the 10 metropolitan areas covered by the Conference Board. However, the National Capital Region is projected to have the smallest increase in 2018.

Nevertheless, the same storyline behind Ottawa’s ups-and-downs is also playing out in other major Canadian tourism markets.

"The hundreds of events organized in communities across the country to commemorate Canada's 150th birthday attracted visitors from both near and far, and contributed to a banner year for tourism in 2017,” Greg Hermus, associate director for the think tank’s Canadian Tourism Research Institute, said in a statement.

“With this major milestone behind us, we can anticipate more subdued growth going forward. However, tourism will continue to be boosted by the low Canadian dollar, increased direct air capacity, and new marketing efforts,” he added.

Locally, the Ottawa 2017 Bureau organized a string of high-profile events to celebrate Canada’s sesquicentennial, including Red Bull Crashed Ice, La Machine and Kontinuum

Additionally, the city was able to attract major sporting and cultural events including the Juno Awards, Grey Cup and last weekend’s outdoor NHL game.

In a speech to the city’s business community earlier this month, Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson said he’d like to see some of this year’s festivities such as the Interprovincial Picnic on the Bridge turned into annual events.