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ThinkOttawa puts the city’s best and brightest on the world stage

Ottawa Tourism’s partnership with Invest Ottawa and the Shaw Centre creates a ripple effect across the city

ThinkOttawa event with Lesley Pincombe and Dr. Wahab Almuhtadi
Dr. Wahab Almuhtadi, P.Eng., SMIEEE, EIC fellow — senior Member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. and Lesley Pincombe. Ottawa Tourism’s vice-president of meetings and major events

Lesley Pincombe’s team at Ottawa Tourism knows their work won’t cure cancer, but the people they bring together under one roof just might.

As one of the partners of ThinkOttawa, Pincombe and the Ottawa Tourism team work closely with Invest Ottawa and the Shaw Centre to assist local leaders in planning conferences in the capital by helping organize bids, marketing material as well as locating venues, hotels and excursions – all free of charge. 

“We market the city as much more than a leisure destination,” said Pincombe, who is Ottawa Tourism’s vice-president of meetings and major events. “We’re mandated to attract international meetings and events.”

In spite of the challenges presented by the pandemic, the ThinkOttawa team never missed a beat. Instead, they found new ways to continue to work with businesses and attract new conferences to the capital.

“We were really fortunate to hold onto our relationships with those international conferences – and the future looks bright,” said Pincombe, underlining the importance of these conferences to the city’s economic prosperity. “This year has been one of our busiest.”

Why ThinkOttawa should be any event organizer’s first call

Calling ThinkOttawa should be your first step to putting a potential ‘brain gain’ for Ottawa in motion.

“With these conferences, you can’t just pick up the phone and assume it’s a slam dunk,” said Pincombe, adding that it often takes a dedicated pitch and presentation to secure a city as a host. And for many first time organizers, the logistics of running an event can be daunting.

Pincombe sees her team as the experts working alongside Ottawa’s business community, helping local leaders in medicine, technology, engineering and immigration, for example, bring their conferences to the capital.

“We have the knowledge and connections with Ottawa’s hospitality industry to pull together a presentation that will ‘wow’ the organizers,” said Pincombe. “I don’t want someone like Dr. Wahab Almuhtadi, P.Eng., SMIEEE, EIC fellow — senior Member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. — copying and pasting airport information. That’s our job.”

That said, ThinkOttawa understands how crucial the influence and support of their local ambassadors is to their success. 

“Sometimes it’s a local player that can tip the scale,” she said. In 2019, that local player was Enrico del Castello. 

Bringing 2019’s International Metropolis Conference to Ottawa

Del Castello was director of knowledge mobilization and partnerships at Citizenship and Immigration Canada when he decided to bring the International Metropolis Conference to Ottawa in June of 2019.

As a seasoned organizer of similar events, del Castello knew how much work it takes. That’s why he made ThinkOttawa his first call. 

Enrico del Castello
Enrico del Castello speaks at the International Metropolis Conference in 2019

By leveraging local connections with Ottawa’s hospitality community, the ThinkOttawa team pulled together a package for del Castello that showcased everything Ottawa has to offer, both professionally and socially. The result was a record breaking conference.

“The director of research of the IOM — the International Migration Organization of the United Nations — commented that on the final Friday we had standing room only for our final plenary session,” he said. “Typically you see a lot of empty chairs on the final day, but people were really captivated by what we did.” 

The event’s numbers tell the same story: representatives from 61 countries, seven keynote speakers and nearly 1,500 registered attendees visited the conference in the capital — the highest number of delegates and countries ever represented at this conference. 

“No one can match what we did in Ottawa,” said del Castello, adding that organization members still reference the success of the conference to this day.