With the weak global economy, new passport regulations for U.S. tourists and a strong Canadian dollar, Ottawa’s tourism industry was bracing for a rough summer.
Add a cool and soggy July into the mix and it makes for “the perfect storm.”
“It’s probably the most challenging set of circumstances we've seen in quite a while,” said Jim Dean, marketing director of the Haunted Walk.
Dean said they have had a noticeable drop in business so far this season, most significantly relating to advanced reservations.
“It seems like people are really waiting until the last minute to see if the weather is going to co-operate, which is different than the past summers,” he said. “We’re looking forward to August, hoping it’s going to be a little nicer than July has been.”
Diane Beauchesne, owner of Lady Dive Tour Company in Ottawa, estimated that business is down around 25 per cent compared to the year before.
“People don’t want to come here if it rains all the time and they don’t want to get out if it's raining,” she said.
Beauchesne said last year the amphi-bus and the double-decker were sold out for most tours during the summer, but this year there are almost always some empty seats and she has even had to cancel some evening tours.
The worst is days like yesterday, said Kurt Huck, owner of Capital Cruises, a when brief 10-minute downpour in the afternoon can ruin business for an otherwise nice day.
Huck said he’s hoping for a dry August and fall. He said many visitors still come for tours in October to see the leaves changing colour.
“The season is definitely not a writeoff, but if we keep going the way we are throughout August then the rain is going to hurt a lot more,” he said.
As of last May, hotel occupancy in Ottawa was down two per cent compared to the year before, according to Jantine Van Kregten, director of communications with Ottawa Tourism.
She said anecdotal evidence suggests that bookings are even softer for June and July, but Van Kregten said it's difficult to say how much weather affected travel plans, especially when so many other factors come into play.