Toronto tourism industry sets high expectations for 2016

Feb 9, 2016 | Biz/Tech

Natalia Vega

Tourism in Toronto has been on the rise since 2010 and it’s expected to continue as the city starts preparing for major events that will attract international visitors, including this weekend’s NBA All-Star game.  

Andrew Weir, Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer of Tourism Toronto said 2016 looks like a promising year.

This All-Star game is just one of many festivities expected to draw attention.

“On top of that, we’ve got some major conventions coming in this year,” Weir told Humber News on Monday.

“Microsoft World Partner Conference in July will bring about 17 thousand people.”

The growth in 2015 is expected to continue. Just recently, Toronto was billed by The New York Times as the number 7 global destination in a list of 52 places to go in 2016.

“People want to see Toronto” –Andrew Weir

According to a Tourism Toronto media release this week the level of tourism within the city has grown 10 per cent in one year from the U.S. market alone, making 2015 the fifth straight year where an increase of Americans traveling to the city.

“For four of those five years that we’ve been seeing growth, the dollar was at par which tells you that for those years it wasn’t the currency that was driving growth, it was actual demand for Toronto,” said Weir. 

“The growth from the U.S., which is vitally important for the success of the industry, is coming for the right reason – because people want to see Toronto.”

Still, Weir said it’s more than just money that may explain an overall increase in visitors that has been on the rise for the six consecutive year. 

Toronto’s hosting of so many diverse celebrations has become a big motivator to attract visitors, he said.

For example, China last year topped the list for the most international visitors to Toronto.

“China is continuing to be our top preforming international market with 13 per cent growth last year and now 260,000 visitors a year,” said Weir.

“That kind of growth from visitors who stay longer, do more and spend more in the destination is critically important and that really is what’s going to generate long-term tourism stability.”

Weir said the industry in Toronto isn’t dependent on one type of tourism, meaning the city attracts visitors at all times throughout the year for all kinds of reasons.

In terms of  which time of year is the most popular for visitors, Weir said the numbers actually balance throughout the year.

“The balance tilts towards business in the winter and the fall and towards leisure in the spring and summer,” said Weir.

Although the tourism industry generates a certain level of income from visitors, Weir said Tourism Toronto is funded by two major sources: their partnership with hotels and the provincial government.

This partnership with hotels brings in approximately $19 million (amount changes on a yearly basis) and roughly $9 million from the provincial government, he said.

Tourism Toronto also receives funding from individual businesses, generating anywhere from $1 – $1.5 million, he said.

“[They] pay to participate in some of our marketing programs, like to be listed in our visitors guide,” said Weir. “That’s typically a charge around $400 for individual businesses.”

The tourism industry creates jobs and supports economic growth, said Denelle Balfour, a media representative with the Ontario Ministry of Tourism Culture and Sport, in an e-mail.

“We recognize that tourism is an important economic driver,” said Balfour.

“2012 numbers indicate that tourism supported over 359,400 jobs and generated over $28 billion of economic activity in Ontario.”

The tourism and hospitality industry employs over 315,000 people in Toronto.