The nation’s capital embodies all that is great about Canada — cultural diversity, beautiful scenery and a vibrant arts and business community. With its impressive national sites, monuments and symbols where visitors can experience the best of the nation, Ottawa is a unique and inspiring destination to visit and, of course, to live.
But it’s also a good place to do business. Though a G8 capital and the country’s fourth largest metropolitan area, Ottawa still remains an intimate, relaxed city — ensuring any meeting or event has a successful and enjoyable turnout. In addition to its positive qualities as a city, the simple location of Ottawa has its own benefits. Close to major centers including Outaouais, Montreal and Quebec City, the area is a convenient and easily accessible destination for any meeting — big or small.
Ottawa is situated on the banks of the Ottawa River in Ontario. It is mirrored by the city of Gatineau across the river in the province of Quebec and is just an hour’s drive north of the Canada-United States border.
Getting to Ottawa is easy as the city is served by excellent road, rail and air links. Ottawa’s newly expanded $310 million airport, boasts 656,000 square feet of space and 15 gates, providing easy access for air travelers.
And once meeting delegates arrive — they won’t be disappointed by what they see.
“Nobody wants to come to a boring destination for a conference or for individual travel,” says Tom Price, director of convention sales and marketing for Tourism Ottawa. “We describe Ottawa under four pillars of brand identification that tells the exciting story of Ottawa.”
Ottawa is built on four pillars that define the city’s key attributes as a visitor destination — capital, culture, nature and relaxed. As the capital city of the country, the city showcases an impressive selection of national sites and monuments. It is also home to the majestic Parliament Hill — the seat of the federal government and the site of pomp, pageantry, home of the Governor General, the National War Memorial and the Peacekeeping Monument, the Supreme Court of Canada, the home stables of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police’s famous Musical Ride as well as hundreds of international embassies and high commissions.
“Ottawa’s outstanding capital attractions make it a not-to-be missed destination for Canadians and international visitors alike,” says Price.
Although many visitors may think Parliament Hill is nothing more than just a convenient photo-op, meeting planners will be pleased to know, they can actually conduct business there — at a Member of Parliament’s request that is.
Parliament Hill is one of the most prestigious places to host an event in Ottawa. With its storied history, marble floors, sculpted arches, ornate statues and arched ceilings; the Centre Block has a number of beautifully decorated meeting rooms for any type of gathering.
The Government Conference Centre is another prestigious place to host an event or meeting. The city’s old Union Train Station, right across the street from the elegant Fairmont Chateau Laurier Hotel, has a number of rooms that can accommodate hundreds of delegates or just a few, depending on your needs. The building’s train departure and arrivals area is a miniature version of the old Roman baths, making it unique among train stations. With its arching windows, impressive pillars and beautiful Rideau Canal, the conference centre is a prominent place to meet.
The area around Parliament Hill is also a fabulous place to play as it is chock-full of pubs, restaurants, shops and the nearby Byward Market. The historical market is one of the city’s best tourist draws and is known for its eclectic shops, boutiques and restaurants.
More shopping can be found at the Rideau Centre, the region’s most popular shopping destination. The mall features 180 stores and services, including movie theatres, restaurants and a currency exchange. In addition to leading fashion retailers, the centre is home to a unique mix of local retailers offering artwork, jewelry, home accessories and more.
After delegates have shopped up an appetite, there’s no shortage of places to dine. The downtown core boasts all kinds of culinary experiences from steak and sushi to Indian and Tex Mex.
“Creating great culinary experiences is very important to us,” says Price. “That’s why meeting groups can organize a Dine Around evening through Ottawa Tourism. Delegates can meet at a reception at one venue for a drink and then move on to appetizers at another restaurant, and another for the main course and finally the last place for dessert. It’s a fantastic way to enjoy the best restaurants in the city in an organized fashion.”
After dinner, delegates will enjoy a night stroll along the streets of downtown Ottawa. The safe and vibrant area is bustling with street performers as well as venues featuring live music that spills onto the streets — especially during the summer months.
“There’s very few cities in the world that unite as many cultural outdoor entertainment and historical experiences in the one city,” says Price. “And because of the unique location of our downtown core, nestled between the Rideau, Ottawa and Gatineau Rivers, all of this is in walking distance for your convention delegates.”
Located in the core of the business district, the Sheraton Ottawa Hotel is a short walking distance to Parliament Hill, the Ottawa Conference Centre and most major attractions, including the National Gallery, the Canadian War Museum, the Museum of Civilization, the Byward Market and the Rideau Canal. The upscale business hotel specializes in small- to medium-sized meetings and conferences.
“We offer close to 10,000 square feet of quality meeting space, a total of nine meeting rooms, most with windows,” says Otto Heberlein, general manager of the Sheraton Ottawa Hotel.
The hotel’s largest room can accommodate up to 240 delegates for a sit-down dinner. The Sheraton Ottawa also boasts a 24-hour business centre, in-house audio-visual services, a giftshop/flowershop and the popular Carleton Grill and Sasha’s Bar for delegates’ entertaining pleasure.
The Holiday Inn & Suites is another downtown venue, easily accessible for meeting delegates. Situated in the heart of the downtown core, The Holiday Inn is close to the hustle and bustle of the city’s activities and attractions. Meeting delegates will enjoy the hotel’s refurbished rooms, some enlarged and all smartened to create an ambiance suited to the event at hand. All meeting rooms feature windows that open, a meetings accessories kit, ergonomic furniture and wireless high speed internet with 24-hour support. Audio visual equipment and all related meeting equipment are available. A full catering menu is designed with the “meetings and events” scenario in mind.
One of Ottawa’s newest conference facilities includes the Hampton Inn Ottawa & Conference Centre. The venue boasts 24,000 square feet of meeting space including an 11,000-square-foot ballroom (divisible into seven smaller rooms), which is ideal for groups big or small. Two theatres are also available for groups, which seat up to 230 people as well as 16 meeting rooms.
“Every inch of our 24,000 square feet of new conference and meeting space is designed to capture your imagination and help you achieve your goals,” says Franco Falcucci, general manager of the Hampton Inn Ottawa & Conference Centre.
No matter where you choose to host a meeting in Ottawa, the city’s MeetingsEasy program makes it just that — easy to book a meeting in Ottawa. MeetingsEasy, Price’s brainchild that won him the 2006 innovator of year honor from the Tourism Industry Association of Canada, is a web-based tool that helps delegates organize and plan their meetings. If delegates already have their meeting details documented, they can simply attach them and let the system do the rest. If not, the system’s pre-formatted forms lets delegates rapidly map out all requirements of their meetings.
The program allows delegates to request and receive proposals on all meeting elements at any time during the planning process as the system automatically distributes all requirements to up to 300 Ottawa suppliers.
Located at the southwestern tip of the province of Quebec, the Outaouais region is bordered by the Abitibi-Temiscamingue region, the Laurentians and the city of Ottawa. Neighboring Canada’s capital and gateway to the province of Quebec, the Outaouais region is located 20 minutes away from the Ottawa International Airport and less than 20 minutes from the train station.
The urban region of the Outaouais is known as the city of Gatineau, which in 2002 merged with the former municipalities of Aylmer, Hull, Gatineau, Buckingham and Mason-Angers to create the new, bigger city of Gatineau. Today, its population counts close to 235,000 inhabitants, making it the fourth-largest city in the province of Quebec.
“The Outaouais region is famous for being a destination of contrasts,” says Brigitte Cerat, director of marketing and communications with Outaouais Tourism. “The quietude and exoticism of the countryside and the luxury and excitement of the big city live side by side to offer you the best of both worlds.”
Outaouais’s urban amenities include a variety of museums, art galleries, theatres, restaurants and a casino.
The Canadian Museum of Civilization is one of the area’s best known attractions. Some of its special exhibits include Glenn Gould: The Sounds of Genius. An unparalleled assortment of objects, including his beloved pianos and a collection of sound recordings bring Canada’s most celebrated and controversial classical pianist’s legacy back to life.
Delegates can also catch Treasures from China, another special exhibit that celebrates the splendor of Chinese civilization, its history and its contributions to humanity through 120 of the most magnificent Chinese masterpieces — including the oldest artifact ever displayed at the Museum of Civilization.
Delegates who want to bet on a good time can check out The Casino du Lac-Leamy. The casino features 1,900 slot machines, 60 gaming tables, a keno lounge, a live roulette game and a Royal Ascot electronic horseracing track.
For delegates who want to mix business with pleasure, the casino also hosts conventions and banquets. The Lac-Leamy Complex Conference facility boasts a total floor space of 50,812 square feet and can accommodate groups of 10 to 1,600 people. The facility is equipped with state-of-the-art technology and offers services from catering to simultaneous interpretation.
In contrast to its urban charms, the Outaouais region is also widely known for its pristine natural environment. Thanks to its vast 33,000-kilometre territory, which is dotted with lakes and rivers, Outaouais is a top destination for nature lovers.
Gatineau Park is one of the area’s natural gems. Managed by the National Capital Region, Gatineau Park is a superb nature reserve just 15 minutes from Parliament Hill. The park is endowed with hundreds of kilometres of trails, forests containing more than fifty species of trees, abundant wildlife and numerous crystal-clear lakes typical of the hills of the Canadian Shield.
Gatineau Park is also home to a fabulous team-building activity, Fortune Aerial Experience. This features six courses of suspended walkways, rope bridges, net gangways, zip lines and Tarzan ropes 30 metres above the ground. The two-hour trek culminates in a thrilling zip line back to the starting point at the main cottage.
Apart from being a nice place to work and play, the Outaouais region is also a key destination to getting the job done.
The total meeting space in Outaouais equates to an impressive 170,000 square feet of meeting space, two five-star hotels, seven four-star hotels as well as countless restaurants.
Although, the Gatineau Convention Center has historically been one of the area’s most popular meeting destinations, Cerat says the facility is up for changes that have yet to be announced. “Its future is for now uncertain but represents an excellent development opportunity.”
Still, the Outaouais region offers a variety of unique settings for off-site meetings, receptions, dinners and special events.
For those looking for a peaceful and relaxing environment, Chelsea — just a few minutes away from Gatineau — hosts the Le Nordik Nature Spa. “Combining business and pleasure is now a possibility!” says Cerat.
Located in the heart of nature, at the entrance of Gatineau Park, Le Nordik is a relaxation Spa that features Scandinavian baths in a unique setting.
An ideal place to hold a business meeting in a “relaxed” atmosphere, its superb mezzanine can accommodate up to 25 people. Whether it’s for brainstorming, strategic planning or team-building sessions, the spa’s enchanting decor — set against the backdrop of nature — combine to inspire the flow of creative ideas and bring members of the group closer together.
Another unique meeting venue includes the Wakefield Mill Inn & Spa where meeting planners can book a meeting and overnight accommodation in a beautifully restored 1838 grist mill. Its prestige setting, a historic stone mill secluded within Gatineau Park, is ideal for productive business meetings and executive retreats, free from distractions.
In fact, each year 600 meeting and event planners select the location as their first choice in Canada’s National Capital Region. Wakefield offers four function rooms, each with its own unique character. There are two large meeting spaces in the main mill separated by a sound-attenuated folding wall that can be opened to create one large room called the “Banquet Room”. The MacLaren House has two meeting rooms with scenic views that are also well-suited to any meeting delegate’s needs.