Industry Spotlight: Lesley Mackay and Ottawa Tourism

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Amazing things are happening in Ottawa. Yes, in Ottawa, a city known primarily for it’s cold weather, government workers and of course, as the capital of Canada. But very soon, this city is going to be on the map for much more than that.  The tourism team led by Glenn Duncan and Lesley Mackay have creatively been transforming the next stage of Ottawa. One of the many tactics has been Ottawa’s focus on a youth strategy. We spoke at length with Lesley Mackay to find out more:   Q: What is the impetus of your strategy?  Lesley: "To appeal to the international stage you have to take a look at your own brand. How do people perceive us? In Canada, we are a government town. We are full of federal and government bureaucrats, but that’s not the story that’s really going on in Ottawa. We have an amazing startup scene and there is cool innovation going on."   Youth has been an critical focus for Ottawa and in 2016, they will be hosting the One Young World Youth Conference.   Q: Why is this an important conference to bring to Ottawa?  Lesley: "MICE is critical for bringing meetings and conventions which attract potentially hundreds, thousands delegates to your city. Everyone locally becomes apart of the experience from visas to shop operators. But for OYW, there are youth organizations in Ottawa that have never had a platform to bring awareness of what they are doing."   Q: What kind of an effect do you want to have on the city?  Lesley: "We want more diversity here. We are trying to change that - If we can be apart of the change here, one little conference moves a few perceptions - we are ok with that."   Q: What value do youth bring?  Lesley: "We absolutely see the value in youth opinions. I see more opportunities than anything else. They bring many different perspectives. They will bring another conversation to the table."   During the bid process, International Connector's Millennial Catalysts were involved in testing the creative concept of the bid, many of which have been to previous OYW conferences. Ottawa has quick become an excellent model for involving youth at every stage.   Q: In your ongoing process leading up to OYW, how are you continuing to incorporate youth in the process?  Lesley: “There’s an opportunity to help each other.  On the local organizing committee, we will pair someone with years of experience with somebody who is young, so they can formulate the best plan. This is becoming an effective and successful strategy.  Just as we look at being culturally inclusive, we need to open a place for a younger culture.  It doesn’t need to be so negative all the time."   Q: Why do you personally care about youth strategy?  Lesley: "We haven’t listened to their voices enough and they will be the ones to make and live the change."   Lesley_MacKay_Ottawa_TourismFollow Lesley Mackay @OttawaLesley   Industry Spotlight is a series of interviews with organizations about their perspective on youth strategy. Organizations are nominated by International Connector's network of youth worldwide.