Ottawa hopes to avoid a tourism 'hangover' after 2017

Tourism officials and politicians are thinking beyond 2017 and looking at how those events and strategies can help boost the city's tourism industry in the years that follow.

Successful 2017 events could carry over and become annual events

The Ottawa Tourism Summit, held May 30 at the Shaw Centre, looked at how to keep visitors coming after the excitement of Canada's 150th birthday year dies down. (Kate Porter/CBC)

Tourism officials and politicians are thinking beyond the full event calendar in 2017 for Canada's 150th birthday celebrations, and are looking at how to boost the city's tourism industry in the years that follow.

"We know that we're going to do very well in 2017," mayor Jim Watson told a crowd of 250 attending a tourism summit held Monday at the Shaw Centre, and hosted by the City of Ottawa and Ottawa Tourism.

"But we have to think about post-2017 so we that don't have what would be considered something of a tourism hangover," said Watson.

Watson credited the team in charge the City of Ottawa's 2017 planning, and the many events they've lined up, such as a Red Bull Crashed Ice race near the Rideau Canal locks, a picnic on the Alexandra bridge, and a projection show in one of the new light rail stations.

But Watson suggested the city's tourism scene could be doing more to work with indigenous groups to profile their cultures, and could also emphasize the city's growing culinary scene.

2017 a test case for future Ottawa traditions

The man who's leading the city's planning, Guy Laflamme, said the team is treating 2017 as a laboratory for ideas that could be used over and over in the years that follow.

More than half the activities being planned for 2017 could be repeated, he said.

"For example, the picnic on the bridge. This is such a cool thing on July 2 (2017). Why not make it a tradition in Ottawa?" asked Laflamme.

The architect behind Québec City's 2008 celebrations for its 400th birthday, Daniel Gélinas, commended Laflamme and his team for planning events throughout the year and for catering to a range of interests.

It's important to plan events that surprise and amaze people, said Gélinas, whose own Québec City festivities included Paul McCartney performing on the historic Plains of Abraham. 

Role for residents

But the pride and buy-in of residents are key to keeping up the tourism appeal in the years that follow an anniversary year, Gélinas told the summit.

"Don't forget that, because they are the main supporters in your fiesta," he said.

To that end, Laflamme intends to borrow an idea he saw Indianapolis use when it hosted a Superbowl football game, in which residents of the city became official ambassadors for the city.

Algonquin College and La Cité are creating online training modules to help Ottawa residents be strong ambassadors. Laflamme's hope is that thousands of people will spend 30 minutes online to be certified as 150 hosts and help Ottawa with its marketing message to visitors in 2017.

Sylvie Lyonnais runs Oh Feel de l'eau water taxi, which runs between Ottawa and Gatineau, and agreed it's important everyone in the capital region work together toward making 2017 a success.

"We want the welcoming to be out of this world to keep people coming and coming and coming," said Lyonnais.