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Ottawa Tourism dubs 2024 a ‘year of growth’ for the sector

Michael Crockatt Ottawa Tourism CEO
Michael Crockatt, president and CEO of Ottawa Tourism.

Ottawa Tourism and its CEO, Michael Crockatt, are leading a bold course for the city’s tourism sector in 2024, aiming for growth after a number of challenging years. In an exclusive interview, Crockatt shared insights into Ottawa Tourism’s vision for the coming year. 

Strategic vision and data-driven approach 

Crockatt emphasized the importance of strategic groundwork laid out over the past years, culminating in the Ottawa Destination Stewardship Plan. This plan, combined with increased investments in data research, positions Ottawa Tourism on a path of growth that will be driven by more, higher-quality data than ever before. 

“It’s exciting for us to be intentional about how we target some of our key audiences,” said Crockatt. Using data analytics, the organization aims to identify and attract targeted visitors according to their interests and values. 

Addressing challenges  

Acknowledging past challenges, Crockatt highlighted the issue of international visas for business events delegates, a barrier that hindered growth in recent years. The CEO expressed optimism, noting that the federal government is actively working to improve the visa approval process so that business events goers can obtain their visa in a timely fashion, a crucial step toward fostering international collaboration and convention participation. 

Ground-level impact of growth initiatives 

Crockatt detailed several initiatives contributing to Ottawa’s tourism sector growth on the ground through the funding of new attractions, citing successful support programs such as the Tourism Relief Fund and the Destination Development Fund. The diversification of Ottawa’s offering is also underway, with the development of priority sectors, such as Indigenous and rural tourism. 

With access being another high-ranking priority, the introduction of a direct Air France flight to Paris is seen as a game-changer, opening doors for international visitors to easily connect to Ottawa via one stop from Europe, the Middle East, Africa, India and other big global markets. Crockatt anticipates that the success of this flight will demonstrate the strength of the Ottawa market, which should lead to even more international air capacity.  

Sports tourism is another focal point, with up-to-date, accessible sports facilities playing a crucial role in attracting major sporting events. Crockatt stressed the importance of modern and well-adapted sports infrastructure, including those affected by the Lansdowne 2.0 project, for maintaining competitiveness and hosting significant events that contribute to the city’s appeal.  

Mentioning the shift in the habits of independent business travelers since remote work has become more widely spread, the CEO finally mentioned Ottawa Tourism’s efforts to keep attracting big conventions and other major events. With added capacity in that department and dedicated partners, Ottawa Tourism intends to build on the success they had in 2023 in the year ahead. 

Community-wide impact and legacy 

Beyond economic growth, Crockatt underscored the positive impact of tourism on the community, describing tourism as the “first date for economic development,” benefiting residents, businesses, and workers alike, in addition to generating tax revenue. Not just that, but major sporting events, such as the 2023 Pacific Four Series for women’s rugby during which Canada’s team spent a day with at the Algonquins Pikwakanagan to play rugby with youths and bring rugby balls to the community, create lasting legacies, fostering community engagement and collaboration. 

Crockatt highlighted that Ottawa Tourism’s plan is in fact a plan for the whole community, cultivating a city people want to visit, and establishing a strong brand that not only attracts visitors, but also plays a pivotal role in talent acquisition and the attraction of investments in Ottawa.

As Ottawa Tourism gears up for a year of expansion and revitalization, the CEO anticipates positive ripple effects that will enhance Ottawa’s status as a premier destination for both residents and visitors: “We’ve got a great community to show the world. There’s lots of opportunity. I’m incredibly optimistic about the future of Ottawa.”