Ottawa Tourism CEO: 2013 "soft year," works to attract more U.S. visitors

The President and CEO of Ottawa Tourism says the industry is gearing up for a big year, after 2013 wasn't so great.

Speaking at the Ottawa Chamber of Commerce's Eggs n' Icons business event at the Sheraton Hotel on Friday morning, Noel Buckley said 2011 and 2012 saw an occupancy rate of 70% or more, which he says was among the best in the country.

While the numbers for last year are not tallied, he admits 2013 was a "softer" year thanks to a less than ideal economic climate.

But, Ottawa Tourism is hard at work to win back U.S. travellers, and will send employees to Washington.

"In the meetings market, we're pursuing meeting planners who can influence national associations or international associations or significant corporate business."

When it comes to leisure travel, Buckley argued our city shouldn't try to imitate Montreal or Toronto, because Ottawa's got its own groove, thanks to a "more relaxed urban vibe."

"So we simply want the people in Toronto and Montreal to understand that there is an urban product here. You can get a great meal, you can get a fine bottle of wine, you can enjoy museums, you can enjoy shows, you can enjoy cafes and clubs and great festivals."

Buckley admitted there are still challenges within the tourism industry.

"If we're pursuing international business, access does matter. We have a great airport, but if you're flying here from China, you're landing in Toronto. I mean, those are the facts."

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