Ottawa Builds on Canada’s Birthday

Author: Kristin Luna       

It’s not every year that a country celebrates a major milestone like the 150th anniversary of its confederation. Recognizing the historical significance of this year, Ottawa started preparing for Canada’s birthday years ago by marketing the event as a way entice groups to meet in the country’s capital.

“Being the capital city of Canada, there was a natural draw to our city as the unofficial headquarters of the nation’s 2017 celebrations,” said Glenn Duncan, senior vice president of Ottawa Tourism. “We started talking to clients about how they may want to consider Ottawa in 2017 at least five years ago, if not more.”

And talk to clients they did — some were Ottawa veterans; others were bringing their groups to the Canadian capital for the first time. As of January, 45 large-scale events had booked Ottawa for 2017, an increase of more than 220 percent over the past two years.

“With an impressive list of new events added to our already busy annual activities calendar, we were able to illustrate how there would be no better year to meet in Ottawa,” Duncan said.

It was key to let groups know that despite its increase in popularity as a meeting destination, Ottawa could easily accommodate the influx in business, he said. “We had to make sure to battle any misperceptions that we were ‘full’ or ‘sold out’ and, instead, play upon the momentum and excitement of being a group assembling here this year.”

That momentum includes a number of initiatives like Ignite 150, a collection of 17 elevated events spread throughout the year in Ottawa — like a yoga session on a barge accompanied by a live orchestra or a movie on a downtown terrace rooftop. “Ottawa Welcomes the World” is another ongoing series of free cultural events hosted at the Aberdeen Pavilion and Horticulture Building that showcases Canada’s diversity by paying homage to countries around the world — from Poland and Turkey to Haiti and Guyana — through food, music, and art.

Focusing on new “infrastructure, legacy projects, arts, and cultural offerings is a natural way to elevate the discussion around animation in your city,” Duncan said. Ottawa started prepping its spaces years ago to ensure it met demand; developments like the purpose-built Shaw Centre, which just celebrated its sixth year, have allowed the city to host multiple large-scale events at any one time.

Additionally, Ottawa has invested billions of dollars into increasing infrastructure and facilities to provide a more convenient and pleasant experience for groups. Such recent developments include an $863-million renovation of Parliament Hill’s West Block, extensions to Ottawa’s Light Rail Transit (LRT), and $725 million invested in the redevelopment of Ottawa Macdonald-Cartier International Airport. New attractions such as the Canada Science and Technology Museum and spaces such as the Canadian Museum of History’s Canadian History Hall provide uniquely Canadian venues for attendees to visit as part of their conference program or during their free time — reinforcing the experience of meeting in Canada during its historic anniversary.

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