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Royal newlyweds expected to bring even bigger crowds to Ottawa on Canada Day
Ottawa Ontario,

Royal newlyweds expected to bring even bigger crowds to Ottawa on Canada Day - Ottawa  Arts & Entertainment
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OTTAWA — It’s never difficult to draw a crowd to Ottawa on Canada Day, but add an appearance by the world’s most famous newlyweds, and tourism officials are predicting record numbers in the city this July 1.

The National Capital Commission is preparing for record crowds. The NCC’s Denise LeBlanc thinks numbers could exceed the record set in 2008, Quebec’s 400th anniversary, when more than 460,000 people gathered in downtown Ottawa.

“I think we’ll see a very full Canada Day — if people are thinking of coming, I would suggest booking sooner rather than later, because they may be out of luck.”

With memories of the April 29 fairy tale wedding still fresh, Ottawa Tourism’s Jantine Van Kregten says the newly minted Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are likely to attract a younger crowd and more Americans than usual.

“There are dedicated royal watchers in New York State who would be enticed to take a flight or drive to see the royal couple,” said Van Kregten.

Leaving nothing to chance, Ottawa Tourism is working with the Canadian Tourism Commission to promote the visit across the border. Ads have been running in select markets such as New York and Boston, inviting U.S. residents to come and see Prince William and his bride. A three-way promotion among Ottawa Tourism, Ontario Tourism and the Canadian Tourism Commission has created a contest in which an American couple can win airfare to and accommodation in Ottawa.

While the royal couple’s program for the trip has not yet been announced, Van Kregten said she expects it will as busy as the Queen’s visit was last year.

“It would be great to see (Prince William) doing more active things offered in the capital — heck he’s a pilot, he could be taking up one of the planes at the Aviation Museum.”

Hotel bookings for the Canada Day weekend have been steady so far. Canada Day is a Friday, giving all Canadians a long weekend, and more time to make it to Ottawa.

The visit by Wills and Kate won’t have much impact on bookings for bed and breakfasts since Canada Day is always one of the busiest weekends, said Cynthia King, president of the Ottawa Bed and Breakfast Network and owner of Shirley Samantha’s Bed & Breakfast.

King said her bed and breakfast was booked before the royal couple’s visit was announced.

She added that hotels and bed and breakfasts outside the city could experience more of a direct impact from the visit.

Meanwhile, King has been referring people looking for accommodation to universities, which often open their residences to summer visitors.

Ottawa-Gatineau hotel occupancy reached 70.6 per cent last July.

Spending by overnight visitors on tourism-related goods and services in Ottawa-Gatineau was forecast to increase by 6.4 per cent this year to about $1.2 billion from last year’s amount of $1.1 billion, according to the Conference Board of Canada.

Associate director Greg Hermus said that while the visit would likely attract same-day visitors as well, it would be more beneficial to convert them into overnight travellers.

Total overnight visits this year are expected to reach 3,797,000, up 2.5 per cent from last year.

Continuing to inform potential visitors via Facebook, Twitter and other social media tools about what to expect with the royal couple’s visit would build excitement and help the city capitalize in terms of tourism, Hermus said.

Van Kregten said the visit would be a good opportunity to show people that Ottawa is a fun destination.

“I think it’s a really excellent opportunity to promote the Ottawa brand internationally.”

It was announced in February that the couple would take their first overseas trip to Canada between June 30 and July 8. After the Ottawa visit, the couple is set to travel to Alberta, the Northwest Territories, Prince Edward Island and Quebec, with possible stops in Quebec City and Montreal.

With files from Vito Pilieci

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