As Ottawa’s tourism industry looks to rebound from the devastating impact of COVID-19, it’s hoping a tried-and-true crowd-pleaser can help rekindle visitors’ interest in travelling to the capital in 2022.
Skate Canada announced Thursday that the Canadian figure skating championships will be held at Lansdowne Park’s TD Place arena next Jan. 6-13. The event will feature about 250 of the country’s top skaters in the men’s and women’s singles, pairs and ice dance disciplines, competing for senior, junior and novice crowns.
“Skating plays a big role in our community and in the life of many Ottawans, and we are excited for the opportunity to host the best of the best in national skating,” Ottawa Tourism CEO Michael Crockatt said in a statement.
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“Large-scale sporting events like the (Canadian figure skating championships) are not only important to boosting our local economy, but also give Ottawa the opportunity to emerge from these unprecedented times with enhanced exposure on the national stage.”
Hosting Canada’s best figure skaters has become old hat for the nation’s capital, which has staged 11 previous championships, the last in 2017.
But next year’s competition will be contested with an even greater sense of urgency than usual – it will play a key part in helping determine who qualifies for Canada’s figure skating team at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing the following month.
The event could also be pivotal to a local tourism industry that’s been battered by the pandemic and is looking to welcome back out-of-town visitors after restrictions aimed at controlling the spread of the coronavirus slowed incoming tourist traffic to a virtual standstill.
An estimated 11 million tourists visit the capital region in a typical year, but Crockatt told OBJ last spring the city likely won’t see those numbers again until “beyond 2021.” Industry officials estimated the sector took a financial hit of at least $1.4 billion in 2020 due to COVID-19.
The city and local tourism organizations have launched several programs, including a campaign to promote tourism in rural areas and a “digital passport” that offered discounts at dozens of local businesses, in a bid to reignite the beleaguered industry.
“After a long, brutal period of time without the being able to share the emotions that come with live sports, getting these marquee events back on the calendar gives us all a sense of optimism and excitement,” Mark Goudie, CEO of the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group, which operates TD Place, said in a statement.
“Lansdowne will also be the perfect place for us all to celebrate world-class skating and time back together again.”