One of the things I am often asked to explain is what the economic benefits to our region are as a result of having a large convention centre. I know it was certainly a hot topic of discussion when decisions were being made to rebuild the Ottawa Congress Centre into the grand new facility we now call Shaw Centre, and I am happy to report that the dividends that were promised are, indeed, being delivered.
As I reflect back on the first five years of Shaw Centre’s operations, I am pleased with the numbers I see. We’ve been responsible for over 180,000 out-of-town delegates coming to Ottawa, an average of approximately 36,500 per year. Our colleagues at Tourism Ottawa tell us that in 2015, over 450,000 room nights were booked at local hotels by convention visitors; this translates into a $36 million economic impact.
Industry data tells us that non-resident delegates (those travelling from another location) spend an average of 4.2 nights when they attend a convention, which results in over $1,400 spent during their stay. Many also choose to extend their stay with pre- and post-conference time, injecting even more money into the destination city and surrounding area. Visiting delegates spend money on transportation, accommodation, retail, restaurants, entertainment and attractions, meaning that there are direct economic benefits to multiple facets of Ottawa’s economy for every event at Shaw Centre.
Another way to look at the Centre’s economic impact on the region is through overall direct spending. For example, in the 2015/16 fiscal year, Shaw Centre hosted 39 conventions and tradeshows that drew at least 25% of participants from outside the Ottawa-Gatineau area. This equalled over 41,500 out-of-town visitors whose participation in events boosted Ottawa’s economy by approximately $81M in direct spending, including $62M in attendee spending, $14M in exhibitor spending and $5M in production spending. This direct spending contributed approximately $67M to Ottawa’s GDP and supported approximately 975 jobs, resulting in $47M in direct and indirect labour income. This includes $31M in labour income that stems from 724 jobs that are supported directly by events held at Shaw Centre. When you consider the money subsequently injected into our local economy by all of these individuals employed directly or indirectly thanks to events at Shaw Centre, it’s clear that the economic benefits of having a convention centre are significant and far-reaching.
One of the reasons the Centre is proving so successful at drawing people to Ottawa is the flexibility of our space, a principle which was at the heart of our design plan. A study by Economics Research Associates on the economic impact of convention facilities confirmed the importance of flexibility, noting that individual spaces within a facility should have the capability to be reconfigured into smaller spaces and to be used for a variety of purposes for various clients. In a single day, our foyers, for example, might serve as exhibition space, dining rooms and leisure areas. In addition, facilities should be able to accommodate multiple user groups simultaneously; this is also something we are very successfully able to achieve at the Centre. There is definitely a greater economic impact when we are able to house overlapping groups, particularly because careful scheduling including staggered start and end dates can reduce the downtime between events when the facility sits empty. A more even flow of delegates creates a more sustained traffic pattern for area hotels and other visitor-serving businesses in the community.
We at Shaw Centre look forward to many more years of hosting successful events which will make a positive impact on the local and regional economies.