2017 – From Ottawa the old to Ottawa the Bold
It was nearly six years ago, during my State of the City address in January 2012, that I announced the creation of the City of Ottawa’s Canada 150 Anniversary TaskForce. This TaskForce quickly gained momentum, and in 2015, it incorporated into the organization we know today: Ottawa 2017. At its helm since 2014, the one and only Guy Laflamme. Through infinite creativity and contagious energy, Guy envisioned and delivered a year of sesquicentennial celebrations that will be part of our history forever.
Ottawa 2017 did an incredible job of making Ottawa THE place to be to celebrate our Canada’s 150th anniversary. It will be impossible to forget some of this year’s events, which transformed our city, captivated our imagination and elevated Ottawa onto the international scene.
The 2017 celebrations were ignited on December 31st, 2016 with the lighting of the Ottawa 2017 Cauldron by a First Nations scared fire, which was carried by more than 400 youth from City Hall to Parliament Hill, to reignite the Centennial Flame.
Following the Ottawa 2017 kick-off was an epic year of celebrations filled with special arts and culture programming, unique culinary experiences, many large sporting championships, and never-before-seen performances and events.
From seeing athletes hurl down an impressive ice track between Parliament Hill and the Château Laurier at speeds of more than 50km/h during Red Bull Crashed Ice, to experiencing the future LRT system through light and sound with Kontinuum, to being mesmerized by Kumo the giant spider and Long-Ma the dragon-horse as they roamed the streets of Ottawa – this past year has been nothing short of spectacular.
Throughout the year, Ottawa 2017 has captivated us with blockbuster events like the JUNO Awards and JUNO Week, Mìwàte – the Illumination of Chaudière Falls, Canada’s Table in front of Centre Block, the Interprovincial Picnic on the Bridge on July 2nd, Sky Lounge, the 105th Grey Cup and Festival, and the NHL100 Classic outdoor hockey game.
But Ottawa’s 2017’s strength was also in numbers, as Ottawa saw record crowds rushing to town this year. Over 230,000 guests celebrated at an astounding 43 national days and events organized by 85 embassies and high commissions during Ottawa Welcomes the World at Lansdowne Park.
More than 325,000 people made their way underground to the future Lyon Station of LRT for the multimedia show Kontinuum, and got a glimpse into the future of Light Rail Transit in our city.
But the most impressive crowds we saw were definitely the 750,000 people who immersed themselves into the magic that La Machine brought to our city over four days in July. Long-Ma and Kumo will forever be engraved into our hearts and memories, and their story has changed the way the world views our city.
This influx of visitors was successfully supported by our region’s hospitality sector – our hotels, restaurants, shops and attractions – who put in a special effort throughout the year.
Preliminary numbers show that hotel occupancy rates increased on average by 5%, and by 17% in average room revenues. Some downtown hotels were at full-capacity on a number of occasions, and hotels in the suburbs saw a significant increase in occupancy. The Shaw Centre welcomed almost double the number of conventions and delegates this year compared with previous years, with organizations and associations bringing their gatherings to Ottawa in celebration of Canada’s 150th anniversary.
Ottawa’s hotel revenue growth outperformed every other major city in Canada. This clearly shows that our investments have paid off for our tourism sector, and that our hospitality industry is thriving. As we step into 2018, we will continue to work with our tourism partners to keep this momentum going for years to come.
Now that we bid farewell to 2017 and welcome the New Year, I invite you to reflect on the incredible year that was Canada’s 150th birthday, and how these once-in-a-generation celebrations have forever changed our beautiful city. Thank you for being here, for Canada’s Big Year.