"It would seem as if there has been a bit of growth in consumer confidence (lately), there's been a couple months of growth in the economy," said Ottawa Tourism president and CEO Noel Buckley. "And tourism, like everything, is afffected by macroeconomic conditions.
"Clearly, 2009 was a difficult climate to operate but in light of the fact that there's a recovery going on, we feel cautiously optimistic about 2010."
Mr. Buckley's comments were buttressed by a recent Statistics Canada report which said tourism spending in Canada rose 0.3 per cent in the third quarter of 2009. It was a welcome increase for an industry that saw a fall of 3.1 per cent between Q2 2008 and 2009, year-over-year.
Mr. Buckley also said he's hopeful the newly-formed Tourism Leadership Alliance, first announced last November, can use 2010 to create a long-term and sustainable plan for the city's tourism industry.
"It's about bringing all the bodies together that are most interested in tourism, marketing and destination development," he said. "I'd expect that if we have success it will come in putting a preferred destination development plan, so as we move forward we have a good sense of where we as a destination want to be in two, five or even ten years."
The group is made up of Ottawa Tourism, the Ottawa-Gatineau Hotel Association, the Ottawa International Airport, National Capital Commission, Convention Centre, Ottawa Senators and the provincial government, and will likely have the provincial harmonized sales tax on its mind as well, Mr. Buckley said.
Currently, 40 of the 46 Ontario members of the Ottawa Gatineau Hotel Association voluntarily collect a three-per-cent destination marketing fee on room rates to promote local tourism. They've collectively raised $36 million since the fee's introduction in 2004, said executive director Dick Brown.
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Destination marketing fees are presently exempt from Ontario's provincial sales tax, but will be subject to the 13-per-cent harmonized sales tax slated to take effect in July. Meanwhile, the provincial sales tax portion on actual hotel rooms is slated to increase from five per cent to the full eight per cent.
This has some local economic development officials quietly suggesting the province should invest additional tax revenues collected from the hospitality sector back into tourism.
Mr. Brown said he couldn't directly comment on the suggestion because he is working with officials in Ontario's Finance Department to come up with a new funding arrangement for the tourism industry.
"I believe there is a solution that will ensure that the regions will have as much, or more, money than they have today," he said.
Mr. Buckley also remained confident. "The tourism industry is working with province to make sure that all destination marketing that takes palce will be improved or enhanced, instead of diminished," he said. "And there have been some very positive dsicussions taking place, and we think we're moving in a positive direction."
As far as the upcoming year is concerned, Mr. Buckley said a host of catalysts will work in the National Capital Region's favour including the opening of Calypso Waterpark, the re-opening of a newly renovated Museum of Nature in late May and continued momentum from the region's festivals and one-off yearly events such as the Canadian Tulip Festival, Ottawa Race Weekend and Bluesfest.
"I think those all bode well for 2010," he said.
With files from Peter Kovessy