Jim Watson released the first part of his economic development platform today, with a pledge to strengthen local tourism and major event partnerships in his second term.
If re-elected Mayor on October 27, Watson would work to increase the City’s contribution for Ottawa’s “bid more, win more, host more” strategy to $1.5 million annually.
“We’ve made great progress for our third-largest industry over the last four years, attracting major events and showcasing our city to the world,” said Watson. “We need to continue this progress before, during and after 2017 by increasing our investment and strengthening our partnerships.”
Watson was elected in 2010 on a platform to boost tourism opportunities. In his first term, Watson created an award-winning major events office, with a “bid more, win more, host more” strategy. Through this, Ottawa secured high-profile events such as the FIFA Women’s World Cup, the IIHF Women’s World Hockey Championships, and the Canadian Figure Skating Championships.
If re-elected, Watson proposes to increase the City of Ottawa’s contributions to this fund from $900,000 to $1.5 million annually. Further, Watson will work with the private sector to match this investment – doubling the fund’s impact to $3 million annually. Key tourism partners have indicated that they are prepared to help meet or exceed Watson’s target of investing $12 million over the next four years to bid on large scale events.
Growing the fund will support the goal of securing large scale events, including a possible “hat trick” of exceptional events in 2017: an NHL Outdoor Classic, the Grey Cup and the Juno Awards. Based on past results of these events hosted in other cities, Ottawa could expect at least $150 million of local economic benefit.
Large-scale sporting events typically generate 25 to 50 times the initial investment in local economic activity, filling hotel rooms and restaurants, and boosting the city’s economy. For example, the 2013 IIHF Women’s World Hockey Championships generated approximately $85 million in economic benefit. Ottawa’s bid fund provided $250,000 to this event, in addition to the Ottawa Senators’ investment.
2017: The 150th Anniversary of Confederation
Watson’s first term also saw him unite the community and tourism leaders to ensure that Ottawa is ready to welcome the world in 2017. Through the work of Watson’s 2017 taskforce, Ottawa has stayed ahead of the curve in planning for the Sesquicentennial. In his second term, Watson wants to look even further ahead to ensure the tourism industry can build on the momentum created.
“2017 will be a once-in-a-generation economic opportunity to showcase our city to the world,” said Watson. “Once the party is over, we need to avoid a ‘2017 hangover’ by ensuring we continue the collaborations and strategies we’ve developed together.”
In a speech to the Economic Club of Canada earlier this year, Watson announced a target of 8 million visitors in 2017, an increase of 20 per cent over the three-year average. Working with Ottawa’s hospitality and tourism community, Watson wants to make this figure “the new normal” for 2018 and beyond.
To accomplish this, Watson will assemble Ottawa’s key tourism stakeholders in the first six months of 2015 for a summit that will focus on the long-term growth strategies for the city’s third-largest industry.
“With continued job cuts on the federal front, we just can’t sit back and take job growth in our region for granted,” said Watson. “We need to take our economic destiny into our own hands, and Ottawa has tremendous tourism assets we can use to bring more people to Ottawa. Once people discover our magnificent region, they will want to return or invest.”
This dialogue will include key local stakeholders such as Ottawa Tourism, the Ottawa Convention Centre, the Ottawa Senators, the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group, the Province of Ontario and the Canadian Tourism Commission. The Mayor also wants to invite the City of Gatineau to take part in this dialogue, because a tourist visiting the National Capital Region is bound to spend dollars on both sides of the Ottawa River.
Watson also pledged to appoint one member of Council as a Sports Commissioner. He knows that a significant share of local economic development and investment occurring in Ottawa is driven by professional sports organizations such as the Ottawa Senators, Ottawa REDBLACKS, Ottawa Fury FC, Ottawa 67s, and new organizations like the Ottawa Champions Baseball Club. Residents benefit directly from their presence through jobs, marketing, investments in community infrastructure, and more.
The City of Ottawa’s Sports Commissioner will be responsible for taking a leadership role in ensuring close collaboration between these groups, amateur sport organizations, tourism leaders and the City of Ottawa.