The Rideau Canal corridor has been a popular recreation destination since the 1870’s. Today, tourism is the single most important economic activity in the Canal corridor. Land-based visitors to the lockstations is estimated at over one million per year while another 1.4 million people use the Canal in Ottawa during the winter. The Economic Impact Study of the Rideau Canal National Historic Site revealed that the Rideau Canal itself contributes over $24 million to national GDP and sustains over 600 full-time jobs.
The Historic Canals Policy states that historic canals should contribute to regional tourism and that Parks Canada should participate in community and inter-agency tourism initiatives. To that end the Rideau Canal participates in the marketing of the Rideau Canal corridor as a cultural heritage and recreational tourism destination.
While tourism is generally a positive benefit, increased use has resulted in conflicts especially among boaters and between boaters and shore-land residents. Negative impact on the aquatic environment are also of concern. The Historic Canals Policy recognizes the need to ensure that uses and activities respect the heritage character of the Canal’s cultural and natural resources, are compatible with public safety and contribute to the public’s appreciation and enjoyment of the Canal.
9.1 Current Tourism Marketing Program:
- Involvement in a wide variety of tourism promotion programs with other tourism interests.
- Marketing activities are evaluated to ensure that they are effective in reaching out to target markets.
- Promotion of the Rideau Heritage Route with other partners in the Ontario East Tourism Association.
9.2 Tourism and Recreation Challenges
- The management of boating activities on the Canal to provide for public safety, and minimize user conflicts and impact on cultural and ecosystem values of the Canal.
- There is no one single agency that has traditionally provided leadership in addressing boating safety, operation and impact issues.
- High speed boating, wake, unsafe operation of vessels, noise and congestion in certain areas of the Canal has degraded the enjoyment of the Canal for boaters and waterfront residents.
- The ability of the Rideau Canal corridor to compete against other comparable tourism regions.
- Tourism associations and partners generally focus on their own local area.
- Comprehensive tourism information on the Canal corridor in one package is not available.
- Promotion efforts have focused on increasing overall boating and land base use rather than on specific target markets.
- Promotion efforts to increase boating activities in the peak season could result in user conflicts, damage to the environment, and a reduced quality of the visitor experience.
- Possible conflicts between new markets (e.g. canoeists), with traditional users (boaters).
Blacksmithing Demonstration on the Rideau Canal Skateway.
9.3 Trends affecting tourism:
- Projected substantial increase in population of the Ottawa area could increase use pressure on the Rideau Canal.
- Increased boat numbers and larger boats on the Canal are increasing demands for services and the potential for conflicts.
- Increased interest in cultural tourism, learning travel, and educational experiences.
9.4 Strategic Goals:
To promote the Rideau Canal corridor as an authentic, high quality, cultural heritage, and recreational experience while respecting its cultural and ecosystem values.
To manage boating activities to promote safe, enjoyable use of the Canal and to reduce conflicts and environmental impact.
9.4.1 Key actions by Parks Canada:
- Parks Canada will focus its tourism marketing efforts on sustainable activities which enhance the visitors understanding, appreciation and enjoyment of the Canal’s cultural, natural and scenic values.
- Parks Canada will take a leadership role in the tourism marketing of the Rideau Canal Heritage Route, and in corridor-wide marketing initiatives.
- Ensure that marketing efforts are properly targeted.
- Monitor the effectiveness of the marketing program and make adjustments when required.
- Parks Canada will lead by example by providing high quality facilities and services on Canal lands for sustainable activities.
9.4.2 Key actions in co-operation with others:
- Parks Canada will take a leadership role in co-operation with other law enforcement agencies and boating interests to identify and address boating safety, conflicts and environmental impact concerns.
- In co-operation with the tourism industry, develop and market new packages, programs and services based on the cultural and ecosystem values of the Canal corridor.
- Participate in the marketing of the Rideau Heritage Route.