OTTAWA -- Mayor Jim Watson hopes Ottawa residents will consider a “staycation” this summer to support local businesses and kick-start the tourism economy during the COVID-19 pandemic.

During a virtual town hall on Ottawa’s economic recovery during the COVID-19 pandemic, Watson said he has asked staff to look at how the city can leverage its outdoor and rural assets to stimulate tourism and encourage “staycations.”

“We’re probably going to a see significant drop in foreign travel, simply because the planes aren’t flying, and we have to do what we can to attract people from nearer our city – whether it’s Kingston, Toronto, Montreal - to come and visit their nation’s capital.”

Watson also wants to make sure Ottawa residents explore other parts of Ottawa, especially rural areas.

“We have some great bike trails and waterways that connect our rural villages, they all have wonderful shops and breweries to discover,” Watson said on Friday afternoon.

“Since we can’t really travel much this summer, it’s a wonderful opportunity to drive or cycle out to our rural villages and explore what they have to offer.”

Watson says while the City of Ottawa has offered a few programs to help businesses recover, it is important that residents help support local businesses as the COVID-19 restrictions are relaxed. 

 “It’s been really, really tough for the small business community, a lot of family owned businesses. They’ve lost, in many instances, everything; revenues are down to next-to-nothing.”

Watson said tourism, hospitality and retail are suffering during the COVID-19 pandemic, as the COVID-19 measures meant many businesses had to close.

Gradual restart of Ottawa’s tourism sector

Ottawa Tourism expects the focus on tourism will be “hyper-local" this summer due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The re-start of our industry is going to be gradual and incremental, less like a flip-switch and more like a dial,” said Michael Crockatt, President and CEO of Ottawa Tourism

“We anticipate a start with hyper-local tourism, really visitors visiting their hometown again. Followed by some regional and provincial visitation, and eventually national and international tourism.”

Crockatt says Ottawa Tourism is working on a plan to attract visitors back to Ottawa when the COVID-19 restrictions are relaxed.

Ottawa Tourism estimates the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a $1.4 billion loss of visitor spending to Ottawa’s tourism sector and economy this year.

“All of us have a role to play in the recovery of Ottawa’s visitor economy,” Crockatt said during the virtual town hall meeting.

“Once it’s safe to do so, we urge all citizens to invite friends and family to Ottawa.”