Ottawa Tourism reallocates resources to convention attraction

Elizabeth
Elizabeth Howell
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Provincial funding unlikely to be renewed

A fund used to bring large-scale conventions to Ottawa is expected to remain intact even though the provincial government appears disinclined to put more money on the table.

The Ottawa Convention Centre lit up during the gala. (Photo by Lois Siegel)

However, its continuation will likely come at the expense of other programs at Ottawa Tourism as the local agency uses "funds from within (its) current resources" to top off the convention attraction program, according to CEO Noel Buckley.

"What it means is we have to find a way to make this a sustainable program from a local perspective ... that would allow us to properly compete in this competitive market segment," he says.

Free transportation from the airport is one example of how the fund can be used, says Ottawa Gatineau Hotel Association executive director Dick Brown, although the partners prefer to keep the terms private, as well as the size of the fund, for competitive reasons.

Since delegates tend to spend more money than other categories of visitors to a city, this is a market that typically gets a lot of competition for business.

Officials say money from the Convention Development Fund was instrumental in attracting a 1,700-delegate educational convention from Belgium to Ottawa, over competing bids from Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal and Quebec City. That 2015 event is expected to generate more than $3 million in local spending.

The local fund - one of six in Ontario - has been in existence for several years and received a one-time provincial contribution of $500,000 in 2010-11, which was supplemented by contributions from the OGHA, Ottawa Tourism and the Ottawa Convention Centre.

According to figures provided by the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport, the province contributed $2.75 million in 2010-11 to Toronto, Ottawa, Niagara Falls, Hamilton, London and Windsor.

Ottawa's $500,000 share was intended to bring in 19 conventions with 53,000 visitors, to generate about $57 million for the local economy as well as "additional support" for 19,000 existing tourism jobs.

The funding comes with some conditions, such as reporting how the money was used, allowing provincial audits upon request and acknowledging provincial support for the project.

When asked if that was the end of the funding for the time being, a provincial spokesperson only noted that the money already allocated would help the cities gain increased convention business in the years to come.

"We will continue to look at opportunities to grow Ontario as a competitive destination for national and international conventions," Denelle Balfour wrote in an e-mail to OBJ.

What costs are eligible for the convention development fund?

• Convention/conference centre space rental

• Ground transportation/shuttle service for convention delegates

• Public transportation passes for convention delegates

• Accommodation and meals for convention site selection

committees

• Renting unique off-site venues

for delegate events

• Hosting/sponsoring industry events during citywide conventions

• Scholarships and/or funding for student or other delegate attendance

Source: Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport

Organizations: Ottawa Tourism, Ottawa Gatineau Hotel Association, Convention Development Fund Ottawa Convention Centre.According Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport

Geographic location: Ottawa, Toronto, Ontario Belgium Vancouver Montreal Quebec City Niagara Falls London

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