The Ottawa International Airport saw its busiest travel day of the year on Thursday, as the summer tourism season begins to ramp up in the capital.

According to the Ottawa International Airport Authority, June 2 saw 4,653 passengers depart the airport on flights.

Air travel plummeted in 2020 and 2021, with passenger volumes only a fraction of pre-COVID levels.

Recently, more flights have been added to the airport and leisure travel is recovering well. The airport says the return of events to the capital such as CANSEC, Canada's largest global defence & security trade show, is helping to boost visitors and is "vital for recovery."

More concessions will be opening at the airport, including a Starbucks.

Ottawa’s tourism industry is also seeing an increase in visitors to the capital.

"The spring in Ottawa has been good tourism-wise, for leisure tourism, the Canadian Tulip Festival brought a lot of people to town, this weekend there is so much going on," said Jantine Van Kregten, executive director of Ottawa Tourism.

"it is a breath of fresh air, it is great to see people coming back to the capital."

Corporate travel for conference and meetings will be critical for both the travel and tourism industry in Ottawa to return to complete pre-pandemic levels.

"We still have to wait for businesses and in-person events and meetings to come back full throttle, that is still slowing our recovery, but we are looking good from a leisure perspective," Van Kregten says.

The tourism industry was hit hard during the pandemic because of travel and safety restrictions. Van Kregten says, "We estimate almost $3 billion of spending was lost in 2020 and 2021, that is unprecedented… we are anxious to improve in 2022.”

Van Kregten says hotels are starting to book up and the summer projections are promising.

"We really are open for business, we have a great summer, and we are here to inspire."

Leon Harris runs Lady Dive Tours in downtown Ottawa. The business depends on tourists and is already seeing difference this spring.

"We have our double-deckers out, we have been noticing a lot more international tourists," Harris says.  

"We are seeing a lot more people going out everywhere, so I think the businesses are feeling a lot more relieved and quite happy."

Harris projects a busy summer season with many visitors to the capital.

Harris says, "Based on our group bookings, we have a lot of charters booking in advance, we are getting a lot of bookings, so we think it is going to be very busy. We hope and believe there is a lot of pent-up demand."