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After an extensive international search, Tourism Toronto as recent as September last year announced the appointment of Scott Beck as President and CEO, an industry veteran and familiar, high-profile personality of the North American Tourism Sector. For past 14 years, you served as the President and CEO of Visit Salt Lake in Salt Lake City, and past Board chair of Destination’s International.

It gives me immense pleasure to welcome you to Canada and now to WTFI Recovery Townhall.

Let’s get started!!

Just as recent as in last February you issue a press release announcing TORONTO SETS NEW VISITOR RECORD WITH 28 MILLION VISITORS IN 2019

The numbers were robust to say the least:

  • $6.7 billion Visitor Economy Spend
  • Whilst Canada employs 1.8 million jobs in Tourism, Toronto supports lion share of 70,000 jobs
  • It generates billions in tax revenue for all three levels of government the city, the region and the province

And fast forward to now – the next press release is issued 2 months later 31st May:

As part of relief measures amid the COVID-19 pandemic…

The federal government is doling out close to $8 million in ‘critical’ funding to support Tourism Toronto.

 That is a huge contrast! Bring us up to speed. Give us a sense What’s the outlook for tourism and hospitality moving forward in this crisis?

Pre Covid crisis, U.S., was Toronto’s largest international market, rising with nearly 2 million visitors, representing a 3 per cent increase year-over-year. Visitor spending from the U.S. increased to $1.35 billion – a staggering 51 per cent growth over five years.

AND now you have a situation of ‘closed’ borders – as by some estimates, some of the highest infections were carried forward from across the border. The Ford Government is determined to keep things as they are for as long as necessary to flatten the curve of the virus.

1. Does this worry you? And if so what measures is Tourism Toronto taking to mitigate?

The Toronto region as a whole saw 45.4 million visitors and $10.9 billion in visitor spending, both new records. The Toronto visitor numbers come on the heels of Destination Canada releasing Canadian visitor numbers announcing a record 22.1 million international visitors and $104.9 billion in tourism expenditures in 2019.

All of these being brought to a screeching halt by the Covid 19 crisis. So it was no surprise that it was a welcomed relief when Ottawa announced $70 million of federal support to tourism programs  spread between  66 tourism offices around the country.

2. Do you think it’s enough to stop the sector from bleeding – for now? are more waivers and incentives required from the government?

Toronto’s business events industry continues to be a thriving component of the overall visitor economy. The economic impact for meetings in Toronto in 2019 reached a record $1.24 billion. In 2019, Toronto was named Canada’s top meetings destination for the second consecutive year by Cvent.

3. What is the strategy to revive this very important segment of the visitor economy? Are there any protocols being laid out?

China remains Toronto’s largest overseas market with 222,000 visitors. Despite declining 5.4 per cent in 2019, visits from China have increased 24 per cent over five years. Toronto also continues to see strong growth from the Mexican market, welcoming 64,000 visitors in 2019, representing a five-year growth of 146 per cent.

4. Do you foresee the return of these international tourists? Are there any Recovery Signals? when, where and how markets will return?

In 2019, Tourism Toronto partnered with the Toronto Region Board of Trade on a landmark economic impact study that, based on 2018 data, found the visitor economy generated $10.3 billion in overall economic impact for the city.

5. Do you think we will return to those numbers ever? And how long it will take? Perhaps based on your experience of previous crisis?

Ok so moving away from the Covid – We’re a city where more than 50 per cent of our population was born outside of Canada. We’re a city that’s the Canadian epicenter of cultural ethnicity, a thriving LGBTQ and black communities as part of a hub for entertainment, sports, technology, finance, education and business. It’s a reflection of Toronto’s own diversity and part of our DNA as a city.

On that note what I am hearing is that Every crisis creates opportunities, and in Canada it rallies people together as ONE Team.

We believe in Team Canada’s ability to rebound!

However, Flexibility and speed is key in this fluid and fast situation!

Thank you for this very insightful discussion!

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