Ottawa Tourism welcomes new federal funding to attract international conferences and events

Shaw Centre Ottawa Tourism

A new funding program to attract more international conferences to Canada could be a catalyst for Ottawa business, one local tourism official tells OBJ. 

On Monday, Destination Canada announced that it would introduce a three-year program, the International Convention Attraction Fund (ICAF), to provide funding to eligible destinations bidding to host major international business events. 

Lesley Pincombe, vice-president of meetings and major events at Ottawa Tourism, is on Destination Canada’s business events advisory committee, which helped develop the framework for the program. 

OBJ360 (Sponsored)

“We’ve seen recovery post-COVID, but we lost a little bit of pace for the future,” she said. “We paused as we went through the pandemic. The leads for future conferences were disrupted.”

She said the fund will allow Ottawa, and the rest of Canada, to be more competitive on the global stage. 

“Some of these bidding timelines could be 10 years out, so it’s not a quick return on investment,” she said. “Rather, it’s building a really strong future for business events, for advancing the work that happens at these events and leading up to them. This fund is really going to be a catalyst to secure more business and put those really important events on our books for the future.”

Events under consideration for funding will have to fall into one of the categories identified as priorities, including advanced manufacturing, agribusiness, life sciences, natural resources, digital industries and finance/insurance. For Ottawa, Pincombe said tech will also be a major priority. 

Pincombe said Ottawa Tourism will be reaching out to local business leaders to raise awareness about the fund and identify possible events to target. 

“It’s a tremendous opportunity for Ottawa as a city to take advantage of these federal funds,” she said. “It’s for us to call on our ministers to join together to build a strong future and identify some opportunities to contribute to the local tourism economy, to get the best return on investment. I would love to see Ottawa float to the top as one of the biggest benefactors of this funding.”

In a release Tuesday, Destination Canada said the fund is part of an overall $50-million investment from the 2023 federal budget. It said the financial backing would improve applicants’ chances of winning their bids. 

“We see 2024 as Canada’s year of competitiveness for business events,” Marsha Walden, president and CEO of Destination Canada, said in a press release. “This is what it takes to compete for the world’s major business events, and win.” 

She continued, “Business events have immediate benefits for the Canadian economy and the tourism sector today, as well as long-term ‘beyond-tourism’ benefits in attracting foreign direct investment, innovative businesses, and new talent in high-growth sectors that are critical to Canada’s future economy.”

Applicants will be eligible to receive up to $1 million in support. According to Walden, the program is expected to bring $174 million into the Canadian economy — or $3.50 for every dollar invested. 

Minister of Tourism Soraya Martinez Ferrada said in the release that hosting more international events would allow Canadian tourism to reach its full potential. 

“These events showcase the best of Canada, extend our tourism season, and attract business people – who typically spend twice as much as leisure travellers,” she said. “With fierce competition for these events, this investment will ensure that Canada can contend with the best — and then welcome them.”

Get our email newsletters

Get up-to-date news about the companies, people and issues that impact businesses in Ottawa and beyond.

By signing up you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. You may unsubscribe at any time.