In the tourism and hospitality industry, location plays as important a role as timing. Today, as global events continue to impact the selection of destinations for international congresses of all sizes, Ottawa is ready to welcome the world and has a marketing strategy in place to make this happen.
Canada’s capital has long been recognized globally as a safe, appealing city and is well-positioned to host local, national and international delegates. One of Ottawa’s key drawing cards for global travellers is the inclusivity for which much of Canada is known. “We eagerly welcome people from all areas of the world,” says Nina Kressler, president of Shaw Centre, the city’s premier event venue, named one of the top three convention centres in the world by International Association of Congress Centres (AIPC) in 2014.
“Ottawa is very much a multicultural city, with 130 embassies and high commissions located here. Visiting foreign businesspeople appreciate the opportunity for personal interaction with the local diplomatic community”, she adds. “In addition, foreign-born residents make up almost one quarter of our city’s population so there is a truly cosmopolitan feel across the region. Ottawa is also the largest city in Canada that is officially bilingual, with almost 40% of our residents speaking both English and French.” Kressler notes that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, in delivering frequent messages of tolerance and unity, exemplifies the peaceful spirit common among most Canadians.
The vibrant cultural scene in Ottawa is complemented by the area’s abundant greenspace. Just moments from downtown Ottawa you will find numerous locations that serve as four-season playgrounds, including our world-renowned Gatineau Park. “Delegates and their partners who attend events at Shaw Centre frequently comment on the natural beauty of the Ottawa area and the wonderful diversity of activities available,” notes Kressler.
“With our experience hosting the world in 2017 for Canada’s 150th birthday, Ottawa is more prepared than ever to welcome international groups and showcase all we have to offer,” she adds. “At Shaw Centre, for example, events as large as 3,000 people are easily accommodated; our overall building capacity is 10,500. Our menus are often composed of unique Canadian ingredients and we serve up world-class Canadian wines as well. We can easily help arrange delegate activities through our many partners including Ottawa Tourism.”
Ottawa Tourism’s Meetings and Conventions business unit – sometimes called a destination marketing office – works closely with Shaw Centre and other meetings industry stakeholders. Their experience and international connections contribute significantly to Ottawa’s strengthened position in the destination industry, as they work to increase and enhance market awareness. “We collaborate to sell Shaw Centre and Ottawa as a destination,” says Kressler.
“This is crucial because large international conventions do not merely choose a convention centre for their event, they choose a city,” notes Michael Crockett, president and CEO of Ottawa Tourism. “The symbiosis between our organizations is important. Ottawa Tourism promotes the nation’s capital as a destination, but we also need Shaw Centre to accommodate the events we draw to our city.”
While Ottawa Tourism works to bring business to hotels, restaurants and other smaller event venues, the Shaw Centre, as the city’s largest facility, is at the heart of any international bid. This strategic partnership is mutually beneficial in other ways. “We share sponsorships costs for MPI (Meeting Planners International) and CSAE (Canadian Society of Association Executives) as we continue our quest to become the market leader in the Canadian associations segment,” adds Crockett.
One of Shaw Centre’s most successful programs is its Ambassadors’ Club, composed of people in the area who are top specialists in science, technology and medical fields and who are champions in terms of helping to bring big events to Ottawa. “In their quest to serve as local hosts who are passionate about an industry they believe in and know extremely well, we support them in preparing their bid for Ottawa to host a future convention,” explains Kressler. “As a team, Shaw Centre and Ottawa Tourism help these ambassadors present a professional bid package, assist them in making presentations, and offer professional recognition for their efforts. We have already had many success stories with this program and we are looking to enhance it going forward. The international congress market is an area of growth for us and an area of strategic focus.”
Proof that Ottawa is becoming increasingly appealing to the global market can easily be found in a list of past and future Shaw Centre events. “We were chosen as the site for One Young World (2016) and are eagerly looking forward to hosting delegates to the Global 4-H Summit in July 2017, the 2018 International Making Cities Liveable Council and the International Commission on Large Dams (ICOLD) in 2019,” says Kressler. “It is exciting to welcome visitors from the four corners of the earth to our city.”