Battered by a pandemic that’s crippled the city’s tourism sector, one of Ottawa’s largest convention facilities is getting a multimillion-dollar lifeline from the provincial government.
Lisa MacLeod, Ontario’s minister of heritage, sport, tourism and culture, said Friday the Shaw Centre will receive a one-time $3.8-million payment from the province to help keep the facility running and fund “necessary repairs and upgrades.”
The Nepean MPP said the Shaw Centre – which attracted more than 63,000 out-of-town visitors in the 2019-20 fiscal year – has seen its revenues plummet 95 per cent since strict measures were imposed on public meeting spaces earlier this year in a bid to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
She said the new funding will help the provincially owned downtown convention centre “come back bigger and stronger post-COVID-19.”
Shaw Centre CEO Nina Kressler said the influx of cash is a much-needed boost for the facility, which had scheduled more than 50 major events in 2020, the most in its 10-year history.
'Light at the end of the tunnel'
In late August, she told OBJ it would likely be at least three or four years before the Shaw Centre can reach the revenue targets it had expected to hit before the biggest health crisis in generations turned the business upside down.
“We will continue to look forward to the light at the end of the tunnel for a much, much brighter future,” she said during a media conference at the Shaw Centre on Friday.
An estimated 11 million tourists visit the capital region in an average year, but Ottawa Tourism CEO Michael Crockatt told OBJ earlier this year the city won’t see those numbers again until “beyond 2021.” Industry officials say the sector is expected to take a financial hit of at least $1.4 billion this year alone due to COVID-19.
The city and local tourism organizations have launched a number of programs, including a campaign to promote tourism in rural areas and a “digital passport” that offered discounts at dozens of local businesses, in a bid to reignite the beleaguered industry.