‘I really like talking about Ottawa’: Jantine Van Kregten retires after 20 years at Ottawa Tourism

Jantine Van Kregten is retiring from Ottawa Tourism after 20 years.

If you live in the nation’s capital long enough, you’ll eventually catch wind of a famous but disparaging comment once made — but never forgotten — about Ottawa.

It bears no repetition, as far as Jantine Van Kregten is concerned.

“It will never pass my lips; I’m never going to say it,” she said in an interview, alluding to the “town that fun forgot” criticism penned by the late legendary journalist Allan Fotheringham at the end of the last century.

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It’s a stereotype about Ottawa that, Van Kregten firmly believes, no longer holds true, that disappeared with no-Sunday shopping rules.

“You can’t tell me that there aren’t great, amazing, fun things to do,” said Van Kregten of the city’s summer and winter festivals, galleries and museums, bars and restaurants, and outdoor activities.

Ottawa is full of hidden gems, she argued. “It doesn’t slap you in the face like Vegas would but, if you scratch the surface, you can find the burlesque shows, the spoken-word poetry, fantastic murals around town. The cool stuff is percolating underneath.”

For nearly 20 years now, Van Kregten, 54, has been director of communications for Ottawa Tourism, a destination marketing organization that promotes Ottawa and Canada’s capital region to tourists, tour operators and meeting planners.

Some might call it a dream job. Van Kregten takes travel writers, journalists, bloggers and digital content creators around the region and exposes them to all the best attractions and hotspots.

“They’re passionate and curious and they want to hear the stories, they want to tell the stories — and they tell great stories just by the nature of who they are,” she said of the journalists with whom she’s worked over the years.

Seeing Ottawa through the eyes of foreigners is “a blessing,” said Van Kregten, gesturing toward the cobblestone courtyard visible from The Clarendon Tavern in the ByWard Market, where the interview was held. She’s had visitors say it reminds them of Italy. 

“The Ottawan in me was like, ‘Yeah, right, dude.’ But, honestly, on a hot summer night in July, with a band playing, twinkling lights and heritage buildings all around, you’re damn right it’s like Italy.”

For somebody as upbeat and positive as Van Kregten, her role with Ottawa Tourism has been a great fit. “There’s an excitement that I genuinely feel. Some people think I’m making it up, like it’s a persona, but I really like talking about Ottawa.”

On June 7, Van Kregten will bid adieu to Ottawa Tourism. Up until a few years ago, retirement wasn’t on her radar but, after seeing her long-time partner, Chris “Jerry” St. Jacques, embrace it, she decided to give it a try.

Van Kregten had 12 years of relevant work experience when she joined Ottawa Tourism in November 2003. Her first gig, right out of university, was as a city councillor’s assistant. She first worked for Nancy Mitchell, followed by Stéphane Émard-Chabot. 

Van Kregten has always had a soft spot for the ByWard Market. So, when its BIA was hiring, she joined the association as special events coordinator in 1997 before being promoted to executive director.

“I used to joke that I wasn’t really getting paid because I was just spending all the money I earned at ByWard Market businesses,” said Van Kregten, who lived for many years in Lowertown before buying a condo in Hintonburg with St. Jacques. 

It was Catherine Lindquist, a vice-president with Ottawa Tourism at the time, who suggested Van Kregten apply to either of the jobs that had simultaneously opened up in marketing and communications at the tourism organization.

“I thought, ‘Why not broaden my horizons a bit?’” said Van Kregten, who gave it a shot and got hired.

Ottawa Tourism works hard to promote the region and draw visitors, conferences and meetings, said Van Kregten. A healthy tourism sector creates jobs and injects money into the city, she added.

That’s why it frustrates her when residents take to social media to dump on Ottawa.

“By putting your own city down, how does that help? It doesn’t,” said Van Kregten. “I think social media gives us such an opportunity. Everybody who lives in Ottawa, who’s on social media, you’re telling the Ottawa story as much as Ottawa Tourism is, in your realm of influence. What you post about Ottawa matters because it’s going to be seen and shared.”

It’s tempting to be negative, she acknowledged. “I’m not saying I’m never negative, but life’s too short to constantly mire in the dreck.

“I think I’ve been good at being able to find the joy where I can. It’s not about waiting to be amazed, it’s about wanting to be amazed.”


  1. She was editor-in-chief of The Fulcrum at the University of Ottawa, where she majored in political science. 
  2. She loves language. Growing up in the southwestern Ontario town of Amherstburg, she found ways to supplement her French learning and spent a year in Germany as an exchange student when she was 18.
  3. She’s close to her mom, Pat. Her dad, who worked 37 years for Chrysler Canada, passed away in 2019. She lost her only sibling, Jimmy, to a motorcycle accident when he was 20.
  4. She’s holding her retirement party at Ottawa’s oldest tavern, The Château Lafayette (a.k.a. The Laf) in the ByWard Market, and will toast her retirement with a craft beer.
  5. Her best advice to those entering the tourism industry is to stay curious and informed. “Superlatives need to be backed up. If you claim that something is the oldest or the tallest or whatever, have those facts handy to back it up, because journalists will ask.”

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