Speech to the Ottawa Gatineau Hotel Association
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Good afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen.I would like to thank you for the kind invitation to speak with you today. As the voice of the hotel industry in our region, you represent a critical driver of our economic success and prosperity. With your 57 members, you are a respected voice at Ottawa’s economic development table. I am dedicated to joining with you to raise the tourism profile of Ottawa around the world.
Tourism is the third largest industry in Ottawa after the public and high tech sectors. In 2007 alone, 7.8 million tourists visited the Ottawa area and spent more than $2.2 billion. And hotels are the bedrock of tourism. When people visit our city the smile they leave with is due in no small part to your efforts as welcoming hosts.
As the nation’s capital, we start from a position of strength when it comes to tourism. Ottawa is home to a number of national and international cultural and heritage attractions. As the historic seat of our national government we have so many gifts here left to us by previous generations of Canadians.
– The Rideau Canal
– The ByWard Market
– National Museums such as the Museum of Civilization, Canadian War Museum, and the Museum of Nature
We also host more than 35 major festivals each year including:
– Canadian Tulip Festival,
– Canada Day,
– The Jazz Festival; and
-The Ottawa International Chamber Music Festival.
At the same time, the coming reductions already signalled by the federal government represent the other side of the government coin. There is no question that Ottawa will feel the impact of cuts in a very direct way.It is more important than ever to recognize that a diverse local economy is a healthy local economy. But even if our local tourism industry is doing well, standing still isn’t an option. Standing still means falling behind…
So we must always be creating new opportunities and exploring new endeavours. And that means creating events that draw tourists to our region at low times of the year; initiatives like the Bell Capital Cup that attracts young hockey players and their families from around the world is one example. Just yesterday I was pleased to join the announcement that Ottawa will host the 2013 IIHF Women’s World Championship of Hockey. The tournament will attract more than 200,000 fans to 21 games and inject up to $20 million into our local economy. And the provincial championships held at the same time will add an additional $15 million in economic activity to our City. This is great news for our merchants, our hotels and our restaurants.
Next year Ottawa will host the 2012 NHL All-Star Game and we are currently bidding to host the Under-20 Women’s World Cup in 2014 and the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup. We will continue our strategy of aggressively bidding on such events because they pay dividends for our local economy.They also strengthen the Ottawa brand across our country and the world. Events like the 150th birthday of our country need to be the subject of a focused team effort to make sure Ottawa is the national and international destination of choice for a celebration to remember for the next 150 years.
The people in this room should expect to hear a lot more from me over the coming months on this team effort. If we are to take full advantage of the sesquicentennial, I will need your active commitment to put together a serious and sustained effort to make that happen. We have a lot of new tools available to us to help grow our tourism sector. The momentum is building and there is a lot to look forward to in the next few years. We have a brand new cutting edge convention centre that will draw business visitors from across the country and around the world.
We are finally renewing Lansdowne Park and creating a truly world class park that will make a spectacular addition to events like Winterlude but also spark a whole new set of possibilities for community – a vibrant every day people place. We are renewing public transit with a major upgrade to a modern rapid light rail service that will reduce bus traffic on downtown streets and deal with the bottleneck in the core. Each of these projects is a powerful economic driver both in the short term as they are constructed and in the long term as they secure tremendous benefits for the community for many decades to come.
Today, I want to make an important announcement and talk for the last few minutes about our special relationship with Beijing One of the priorities that I announced when I was running for mayor was the need to open up business links and draw new visitors to our region from around the world. Ottawa tourism has been working over the past decade to market Ottawa as a preferred Canadian destination for Chinese tourists. These efforts have been redoubled in the past year after Canada received the coveted Approved Destination Status in June 2010. This is a tremendous opportunity for Ottawa and I want to talk to you today about our efforts to make the most of this hard won accomplishment.
Today I am announcing that I have accepted the invitation of Mr. Guo Jinlong, Mayor of Beijing, to visit his city with an Ottawa Tourism delegation in June of this year as part of the Beijing International Tourism Expo 2011. Along with a strong delegation of Ottawa’s tourism team, we will be making the most of the long sought Approved Destination Status and renewing Ottawa’s commitment to our special relationship with the City of Beijing. I am delighted to recognise some of the partners from our tourism sector who will be anchoring the China Trade Mission – including:
– Ottawa Gatineau Hotel Association
– Ottawa Tourism
– The Ottawa Convention Centre
– The Ottawa Airport
– Delta Hotel
– The Westin Hotel; and
– The Lord Elgin
Other partners will be joining us in the coming days. As many of you may know, Beijing is a sister city to Ottawa. I helped to establish the Sister City Relation when I was Mayor of the City of Ottawa in 1999, prior to amalgamation. I can’t tell you how pleased I am to see that this agreement has gained importance and bloomed over the years. In addition to its important symbolic value, this growing partnership has had many practical benefits.
For example, in July of last year Ottawa, the National Capital and the Rideau Canal were all promoted at the Great Wall in China. And during our Rideau Canal fest, we promoted Beijing and the Great Wall. Other benefits of this agreement include the building of the Ottawa Chinatown Gateway though a partnership between the City of Ottawa, the City of Beijing and the Government of Canada. This beautiful traditional Chinese Archway is both a grand entrance to a remarkable neighbourhood in our City and a portal to greater opportunity for tourism for the entire region.
I will also be personally thanking Beijing’s Mayor as he was instrumental in providing materials and labour to build this beautiful new landmark. This visit will affirm Ottawa and Beijing’s commitment to the Sister City Relation at the most senior level of the municipal governments, and promote Ottawa as the preferred destination for tourism, post-secondary education and investment.China is one of the fastest growing economies in the world. Over the next decade, it is anticipated that China will overtake the United States as the largest single economy on the planet. 31.6 million outbound Chinese tourists travelled abroad in 2009. They spent US $43.7 billion on their travels despite the economic downturn, and supported local economies by eating out, occupying hotel rooms and visiting attractions.
By 2020, China will have 100 million international travellers, making it the largest outbound tourism market in the world, according the World Tourism Organization. The Conference Board of Canada predicts that Approved Destination Status will boost the number of Chinese tourists who visit Canada by up to 50 per cent by 2015. The Canadian Tourism Commission estimates that this will generate an additional $300 million per year in additional revenue to Canadian tourism industry by 2015.
China travellers injected $260.6 million into the Canadian economy in 2009. Simply put, we need to get our share of this huge new market that is naturally attracted to Canada.
As you can see, China is a critical market for our city’s future prosperity. That is why I am pleased to announce that we will work closely with key partners in our tourism sector on four specific goals between now and 2013. Three of these goals are directly tied to our Sister City Relationship with Beijing and our China Tourism Mission.
Firstly, working with the leadership at Ottawa Tourism and many of you here today – the City will see an increase in the number of visits from China to Ottawa from 14,068 in 2009 to 25,114 in 2013. That’s an increase of over 56%.
Secondly, we will support the Ottawa Airport’s long-term goal of strengthening its relationship with airlines serving the China-Canada market. The Ottawa Airport, working in collaboration with Ottawa Tourism, will strive to attract businesses and leisure travel groups from China, helping to increase the market and facilitate the anticipated growth in demand.
The third goal is to increase direct foreign investment from China to Ottawa such as the increased presence in Ottawa of Huawei Technology Inc, while showcasing Ottawa-based companies that are looking to increase their business opportunities in Beijing and China.
Finally, as a general goal, we will work closely with the Ottawa Convention Centre to secure a new 400 to 500 room marquis hotel complex in the downtown core to support the growth of our convention centre. Realizing these goals means working together to ensure we are known in China and other key markets as a great place to visit. It also means getting many little things right that make visitors feel comfortable and ensure they have a great experience here. And probably nothing is more important than the comfort a tourist enjoys in our hotels.
So we will be there to work with you and we’ll be looking for you to come to the table for a real push on tourism in China just as we’ll need you at the table for our nations 150th birthday in 2017.
Thank you again for inviting me here today. I look forward to years of partnership, prosperity, community and success!