Attendance was 695,000 people in 2012, with 38 per cent of those visitors coming from out of town, said Guy Laflamme, the National Capital Commission spokesperson for Winterlude. That's up three to four per cent from four years ago, he added.
It is expected that Winterlude's addition to the federal government's Signature Experiences Collection list will push that percentage higher, which will be a boon to the region since out-of-country visitors generally spend more money and are more likely to stay in hotels - as opposed to with friends and family - than tourists from nearby cities.
Attracting those types of visitors is the mandate of local tourism entities such as Ottawa Tourism, since they have a greater local economic impact.
"This is an enhanced international profile," said Mr. Laflamme. "We will be featured in all kinds of publicity and advertising – social media, electronic media initiatives – conducted by the Canadian Tourism Commission."
Marketing will likely highlight the Rideau Canal's designation in 2007 as a world heritage site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). In Ottawa, almost eight kilometres opens to skaters every year during Winterlude when weather conditions allow.
Mr. Laflamme said he was proud of the Signature Experiences designation since Winterlude has spent a few years now working to grow attendance on non-weather-dependent events to combat the threat of climate change to the winter season in Ottawa.
Among other things, the traditionally outdoor festival now offers a "Taste of Winterlude" food event, indoor concerts, a comedy festival at the National Arts Centre and a fashion show.
In October, several Ottawa attractions were named to the CTC list for the first time, including Le Cordon Bleu, the Canadian Museum of Civilization and the National Gallery of Canada.
The list is intended to promote "once-in-a-lifetime" type travel experiences in Canada.