When visitors to Parliament Hill look for that Instagrammable “money shot” over the next 10 years, Ottawa Tourism wants to make sure they get it — even if Centre Block and the Peace Tower are shrouded in scaffolding.
The tourism marketing agency is calling for an artistic trompe l’oeil that will at least give tourists the impression that the capital’s No. 1 attraction is still there, even when it’s under wraps due to the extensive revitalization project that’s about to begin.
“We need to make sure we’re taking care of that money shot that everybody wants when they come to Ottawa,” said Michael Crockatt, Ottawa Tourism’s president and CEO.
The agency is in frequent talks with the federal department responsible for the Parliament Hill project, Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC).
Crockatt said PSPC understands the importance of the Hill to local businesses, and even conducted a test run with the material used to shroud the Canada Post building on Sparks Street during recent renovations.
Still, PSPC has not made a final decision about how it will beautify the Centre Block scaffolding, and the big clock is ticking.
“What you really want to avoid, in terms of customer experience, is disappointment,” said John Swettenham, director of marketing and media for the Canadian Museum of Nature.
Parliament Hill is an integral part of Ottawa’s brand, and a visitor’s negative experience can trickle down to other attractions such as museums, Swettenham said.
He points to other cities including Paris which have covered landmarks during construction so that they remain photo-worthy.
“If they see a trompe l’oeil, they’ve seen their icon. The rest of the city will take care of the experience for them,” Swettenham said.
Canada Day to relocate
For the next year, at least, it should be business as usual on Parliament Hill.
Events such as Canada Day and the annual light show are expected to go on through the summer of 2019, Ottawa Tourism told its members during an event Thursday.
After that, the Canada Day party will likely have to move to a different location.
Tours of Centre Block will be suspended at the end of January and be replaced by two new attractions.
Tourists will be able to book tickets online to see the temporary House of Commons in West Block, as well as the Senate chamber in the recently renovated Ottawa Conference Centre.