Reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic, Ottawa’s beleaguered tourism industry is hoping the city will be ready to rock when it welcomes the world’s best curlers to the capital next spring.
Curling Canada said Tuesday that the 2021 world men’s curling championship will be held at TD Place area next April 3-11. It will be the first time the nation’s capital has hosted the international curling showdown – but more importantly, it’s slated to be among the first major public events held in the city in what’s expected to be a pivotal year for the tourism sector as it attempts to rebound from the disastrous effects of the COVID-19 lockdown.
Mayor Jim Watson said the event will be a “big shot in the arm” for an industry that normally employs more than 40,000 people and pumps in excess of $2 billion into the city’s economy each year.
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Local MPP Lisa MacLeod, who also serves as the provincial minister for tourism, culture and sport, told reporters on Tuesday the bonspiel is expected to generate more than $3.6 million in economic activity.
That will be welcome news for tourism-related businesses. Measures imposed to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus slowed tourism in the capital to a virtual standstill this spring, and experts say the local economy stands to take a hit of more than $1 billion in 2020 due in large part to cancellations of significant attractions such as Bluesfest and Canada Day festivities.
“We’ve lost a lot of major events this year as a result of the pandemic,” Watson said, adding he hopes next April’s championship will be an “amazing boost” to hotels, restaurants and other hospitality businesses that have seen a dramatic drop in traffic over the past several months.
“Now, more than ever, we look to these large-scale events like this to engage our community and boost our local economy,” added Ottawa Tourism CEO Michael Crockatt.
TD Place last hosted a major curling event four years ago when the Canadian men’s championship, known as the Brier, came to town. The arena typically has a seating capacity of 9,500, but curling officials said they’re still working with the World Health Organization and other health experts to determine seating arrangements and establish safety protocols for next year’s event.
“Obviously, we’re going to put public health first and foremost,” MacLeod said.
Thirteen teams from around the world will take part in next April’s championship, which also serves as an Olympic qualifying event for many entrants.
The 2020 men’s championship in Glasgow, Scotland, was cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic as was the women’s tournament in Prince George, B.C.