OVERVIEW OF THE SUMMER 2017 TOURIST SEASON
A RECORD-BREAKING SUMMER FOR THE OUTAOUAIS
Outaouais, September 5, 2017 - As fall approaches, it’s an appropriate time to review the much-anticipated summer 2017 tourist season. Despite less-than-ideal weather, tourist numbers were encouraging—proof that sound investments pay off!
Visitors flock to celebrations of Canada’s 150th anniversary
Our information office in Gatineau welcomed many visitors. The July data alone were unprecedented, showing a 144% increase in the number of visits over the same period last year (combined data for information requests received at the Maison du tourisme and at our satellite offices at MosaïCanada 150 / Gatineau 2017 and the Canadian Museum of History). Cumulative data for June and July show a 29% increase over the same period last year.
Provenance of visitors: More visitors from Ontario and Montreal
The destination attracted significantly more visitors from Ontario than in the past: according to our statistics for June and July, our Gatineau hospitality teams recorded a 6% increase in that demographic, bringing the number of visitors from Ontario to 16% of our total clientele. As for visitors from Montreal, their number increased from 10% of our total in 2016 to 13% this year. These are significant gains, and reflect our marketing efforts in those target markets. “Ontarians and Montrealers are extremely interested,” noted Manuela Teixeira, chair of the Outaouais Tourism board of directors and co-chair of Gatineau’s 150th Committee. “These hospitality data are consistent with the attendance/provenance figures collected by the Gatineau 2017 website, which is wonderful news!” In Montebello, the number of requests for information over the summer remained stable despite decreased attendance in July.
With regard to accommodation establishments in the region, the occupancy rate from May to July spiked by more than 5% over the same period in 2016, reaching an average of 69.6%.1 For urban establishments, the average was over 80%. May and June were particularly busy, showing increases of 7% in June and over 9% in May [linked information available in French only]—twice the provincial average, and the data for August promise to be equally encouraging.
MosaïCanada 150 / Gatineau 2017: Major draws
As predicted, the celebrations of the 150th anniversary of Canadian Confederation proved extremely popular. The summer’s signature event, MosaïCanada 150 / Gatineau 2017, is a huge hit, and the site in Jacques Cartier Park expects to welcome its one millionth visitor soon. Attendance has far exceeded the original forecast of 800,000 visitors over the course of the exhibition, which runs until October 15. Preliminary results of an on-site survey indicate that 53% of the visitors are tourists (28% from Quebec, 17% from the rest of Canada, and 8% from abroad), 26% are from Ottawa and 21% are from Gatineau.2
Impact of the Culture Trail on downtown Gatineau
Restaurant owners in downtown Gatineau enjoyed an outstanding summer. Several reported sales increases ranging from 20% to 55% for the month of July. August data are not yet available but everything points to even better results for that period, thanks to Cirque du Soleil’s show VOLTA, which attracted large crowds to the downtown core. This success is due partly to the Canada 150 celebrations, of course, but also and primarily to the Culture Trail. According to data collected along the trail,3 an estimated 20,000 people visited downtown Gatineau because of the red line painted on the sidewalk. Three-quarters of the pedestrians surveyed along the route were tourists.
As well, the inaugural Festival d’Humour de Gatineau comedy festival (6,000 spectators), Cirque du Soleil’s show VOLTA, Grease (10,000 spectators), À Perte de vue (10,000 spectators) and AGWATÀ (10,500 visitors) all met or exceeded their attendance targets, as did most of the events and festivals held in the region to celebrate Canada 150. “People were really keen this summer. These figures make me proud, and prove that our efforts were right on the mark,” says Ms. Teixeira.
Overall, an outstanding season for the Outaouais
Overall, the region enjoyed an outstanding summer season. 85% of Outaouais Tourism members surveyed4 reported good, very good or even exceptional results, despite a slow start for certain attractions because of poor weather.
The Canadian Museum of History, which opened its new Canadian History Hall as part of the Canada 150 celebrations, welcomed nearly 700,000 visitors between May and August, an increase of 24% over the same period in 2016. In July alone, more than 230,000 people visited the museum, an increase of 48% over last year!
The freshly paved 21 km section of the Véloroute des Draveurs bike route in the Vallée-de-la-Gatineau was very popular with cyclists. As a result, the surrounding villages, including Messines, saw increased visitor traffic.
Visits to the Manoir Papineau national historic site in Montebello tripled this year, thanks in part to free admission to all Parks Canada sites in 2017 to celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary. The Manoir Papineau's exceptional summer [linked article in French only] generated significant economic benefits for the Petite-Nation territory in general, in the form of room nights and tourist purchases at local businesses.
The Outaouais Gourmet Festival, presented August 27 in Chelsea by the Table agroalimentaire de l’Outaouais, attracted some 7,000 fans of local food products. Like its “sneak preview,” Gourmet Alley (held on July 2 in Gatineau), the event was an unqualified success.
Several attractions and accommodation establishments welcomed a new and different clientele this year: they reported more week-days getaways, longer stays, and more visitors from Europe, the United States, and Canada outside Quebec.
A successful Perfect Host hospitality strategy
Early this summer, Outaouais Tourism set out to equip residents and front-line hospitality employees to be perfect hosts. Accordingly, 10 training sessions were held for nearly 250 employees in the tourism sector, and more than 21,000 information kits were distributed to local residents and visitors. Through some 40 field activities, our teams met with visitors to the Outaouais and Ottawa. Marketing strategies included distributing frozen treats from our Outaouais Tourism-branded freezer bike, and showing a 360° video offering an immersive preview of three #outaouaisfun experiences.
Our end-of-season review clearly shows that investing in the region pays off, and that contributions from municipal, provincial and federal agencies make all the difference. “These investments strengthen the vibrancy of the Quebec side of Canada’s Capital Region,” explained Manuela Teixeira. “Events are a smart investment, and they bring in revenues from new sources, not only to the Outaouais but to Quebec as a whole.” She noted that this year’s results are consistent with the Outaouais’ designation as a gateway to Quebec.
About Outaouais Tourism
Outaouais Tourism is a private, not-for-profit organization created by and for the tourism industry 35 years ago. A preferred contact and partner of the Quebec government in the tourism field, Outaouais Tourism contributes to the region’s economic development by coordinating regional tourism plans and projects, visitor services, information, marketing and development.
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1 Tourisme Québec data for accommodation establishments of four rental units or more, May–July 2017. [Linked information available in French only.]
2 Survey of 1,300 respondents, conducted between July 5 and August 22.
3 Data collected along the trail over 140 hours at various times during the week and on weekends.
4 Member survey conducted by Outaouais Tourism in August.