Festivals help power Ottawa’s economy

New study demonstrates the impact of festivals, special events and fairs in Canada’s Festival Capital

The Ottawa Festival Network (OFN) has released its study on the Impact of Festivals, Special Events and Fairs on Canada’s Festival Capital in partnership with Ottawa Tourism and supported by the City of Ottawa. The study captures the impact of new money injected into Ottawa’s economy fueled by visitor spending of more than $122.5 million and resulting in an overall GDP of $222.6 million.

The study is a first step towards capturing tangible evidence to provide a holistic view of the industry’s impact on the economy, employment and the community well-being as a whole, such as:

  • A contribution of $222.6 million total spending ($141.2 million direct and $81.4 indirect and induced) generated by activities at just 37 of the annual events that take place. The economic impact is far reaching in our community with direct sales being spread to lodging (27%), food and beverage (24%), retail (15%), transportation (14%), other forms of recreation (10%), business services (8%), and A/V (3%).
  • Visitors attending annual festivals, special events and fairs spent $122.5 million overall with $36.7 million spent on lodging, $33.4 million on food and beverage, $19.5 million on transportation, $18 million at retailers and $14.8 million on other forms of recreation during their visit
  • The tourism industry benefits from an estimated 234,000 room nights, 10,400 peak rooms and more than 968,000 visitor days
  • Spending generated by visitors, organizers and sponsors, supported 68,798 jobs, generating $63 million in personal income and more than $33 million in taxes to the three levels of government. These jobs which are very much part of the “gig economy”, represent the equivalent of approximately 1,420 FTE positions.
  • Festivals provide an important venue for local artists, groups and performers, with 33 events reporting that 1628 of a total of 4366 artists employed were local
  • More than 16,632 volunteers dedicate over 310,000 hours with an economic equivalent of $8.3 million

The study also revealed the festival industry’s deep connection to the community, evident through partnerships with schools to provide enhanced arts programming, raising funds for community partners and social organizations, providing vulnerable populations with access to arts and cultural activities, educating the public about different cultures and ideas, and promoting diversity.

“This study confirms that our industry is an economic success story that powers our city,” said Holly Tarrison-Gaskin, OFN President and Executive Director of HOPE Volleyball SummerFest. “While we know that this study just scratches the surface, it reveals the many far-reaching impacts that our industry has on our community. We give back philanthropically, and we are inclusive community builders, bringing tourism, businesses, governments and diverse groups together that help weave the social and cultural fabric of our city.”

“We have always recognized the value of special events to our community and local economy, but OFN has now managed to quantify those contributions,’’ said Mayor Jim Watson. “I am proud of the City’s collaboration on this study and of our ongoing support to our festivals and fairs. I look forward to seeing them continue to grow and thrive alongside our tourism industry over the coming years.’’

“Festivals are an important part of Ottawa’s tourism landscape, and provide compelling reasons for people to travel to Ottawa and to stay overnight in Ottawa. This study confirms for us the crucial place of festivals among the many reasons our visitors choose Ottawa as their destination,” said Michael Crockatt, President and CEO of Ottawa Tourism.

“We are very excited to be working with Ottawa Tourism, who have enabled this research through the use of their Event Impact Calculator, and are grateful for the City’s Economic Development and Long Range Planning department’s support for this new study,” said Carole Anne Piccinin, OFN Executive Director. “This study is a benchmark for repeatable and continued measurement that fulfills OFN’s research mandate,” she continued. “It serves as a first step towards more in-depth impact research of Ottawa’s festival industry.”

“We are pleased to be working with OFN to encourage festivals to collect and input their data with Ottawa Tourism’s new tool, the Event Impact Calculator, which will allow our destination to make business and civic decisions around culture that are based on data and research. This tool has been developed by industry leaders Destinations International and Tourism Economics (an affiliate of Oxford Economics) and is being used by destination organizations across North America, standardizing the way the tourism industry calculates and understands economic impact. We are proud to stand with our partner, OFN, to highlight the importance of festivals to Ottawa’s economy,” concluded Crockatt.

The study is available for download on the Ottawa Festivals website. [PDF]

About the Ottawa Festival Network
The Ottawa Festival Network advances a dynamic industry through research, advocacy and education. We create an effective networking environment for festivals, special events and fairs in Canada’s Capital Region. A not-for-profit service organization, we work cooperatively with members and partners towards a vibrant, inspired and prosperous festival capital.