OTTAWA -- After COVID-19 halted traditional vacation plans this summer, many have embraced a “staycation”—exploring the city they call home.

“Considering the circumstances, you can’t really go in many places so this is obviously a great thing you can do with your family, friends, whatnot, to stay outside during this time,” said Michaela Hawdur who was kayaking at Dow’s Lake.

“There’s a bin here for all of the used lifejackets so you know they’re cleaning them, you know they’re cleaning the paddles and stuff, so you feel pretty safe out here,” she said.

At Dow’s Lake Rentals, business could not be better.

“Our weekdays are like weekend days and the weekends are double weekends pretty much,” said Guillaume Jasmin.

Staff wear masks and gloves, and sanitize boats, paddles and lifejackets.

“We’re still getting used to it as well, all the new precautions and stuff," Jasmin said. "We’re starting to get a good groove though."

Ottawa’s tourism industry has taken a massive hit this spring and summer. To help local businesses bounce back, Ottawa Tourism launched the “#MyOttawa Pass”, filled with staycation ideas, along with deals and discounts from more than 60 local businesses.

“There’s spa services, restaurants, there’s even hotels for little getaways if you want to have that real staycation experience so there’s lots of things for people to do,” said Catherine Callary, the vice president of destination development at Ottawa Tourism.

More than 6,000 people have signed up online for the free pass.

My Ottawa Pass

“That’s residents that want to enjoy Ottawa and see Ottawa from new eyes and maybe explore things that they hadn’t done before,” said Callary.

Ottawa Biplane Adventures is one of the businesses that is part of the pass and is offering 35 per cent off a flight that takes you by Parliament Hill.

“We normally get a 60/40 split between local people and international tourists,” said operations manager and chief pilot Greg Reynolds. “Of course with tourism way down this year we’re not getting any tourists at all so our business is surviving on the local people and it’s really jumped up to 80 per cent this year. It’s worked out quite well.”

The #MyOttawa pass has been extended until September 7.

“It’s a very vibrant industry, it’s very resilient so we will come back but certainly we’re looking to residents and we all have a part to plan in getting the visitor economy back and resilient the way that it was previous to COVID,” Callary said.