Visitor spending reached $7 billion, surpassing pre-pandemic levels for first time
TORONTO, Jan 22, 2024 — Visitor spending reached a record $7 billion in 2023 but the number of visitors in Toronto remains below pre-pandemic levels, according to the year-end Toronto’s Visitor Economy: 2023 Market Performance Highlights report published today by Destination Toronto. While visitor spending surpassed pre-pandemic levels for the first time, the city is still at 93 per cent of pre-pandemic arrivals, welcoming 8.95 million visitors in 2023. Before the pandemic, Toronto welcomed 9.56 million visitors in 2019 with $6.7 billion in visitor spending and over $10 billion in economic impact.
“Toronto has always benefited from a diversified visitor economy with strong visitation coming from within Canada as well as from the U.S. and overseas markets,” said Andrew Weir, Executive Vice President, Destination Toronto. “Up to this point some international markets have recovered more slowly, and business events and business travel are still lagging behind leisure travel. For our visitor economy to be the economic engine it has proven to be for jobs and growth, all of these vital markets and segments need to return to full steam.”
Domestic travellers, who have driven a disproportionate share of the growth, account for 71 per cent of all visitors compared to 64 per cent in 2019. International visitors to Toronto - including the vital U.S. market - have shown a slower recovery and both remain 25 per cent below 2019 levels. While Mexico surpassed 2019 visitation, and Germany and the U.K. returned to roughly 75 per cent, China - the city’s largest overseas market before the pandemic - remains at 24 per cent of prior levels. Demand for accommodations also continues to recover but remains 19 per cent below pre-pandemic levels.
“Toronto’s visitor economy is a vitally important sector of the city’s economy, supporting restaurants, arts and culture, retail, attractions, and creating business opportunities for local industries,” said Mayor Olivia Chow. “We salute all sectors of this industry and the contribution they make to Toronto’s vibrancy and prosperity.”
Major meetings and events (multi-day events with more than 1,000 attendees) continue to be a core driver of Toronto’s visitor economy. In 2023 major meetings brought 290,000 visitors to Toronto, however both the number of meetings and total attendees remain below pre-pandemic levels, as 2019 saw 444,000 attendees in the city. Some of the major meetings and events expected to drive visitation to Toronto in 2024 include the NHL All-Star Game in February, the American Association for Thoracic Surgery (2,600 attendees in April), the Pediatric Academic Societies (7,000, April), the Collision tech conference (35,000, June), the World Water Congress and Exhibition (3000, August) and the MedTech Conference (3,000, October).
The pandemic highlighted the crucial role visitors play to the city’s economic well-being. Toronto residents recognize the key role of Toronto’s visitor economy, with 89 per cent saying that the tourism industry is important to Toronto’s economy. Residents also see themselves as active participants in the visitor economy with 62 per cent saying they are likely to attend a live performance, 61 per cent likely to host friends or family, 60 per cent likely to attend a festival, and 59 per cent likely to visit a local attraction in the next year.
Toronto’s Visitor Economy: 2023 Market Performance Highlights report was prepared by Destination Toronto’s Business Intelligence team. Additional insights on Toronto’s visitor economy can be found in the Market Performance Dashboard at DestinationToronto.com/research.
About Destination Toronto
Toronto’s visitor economy is a vital economic engine for the city, generating $7 billion in visitor spending in 2023. Destination Toronto’s mandate is to reflect the breadth and diversity of Toronto’s people, places and culture to inspire residents and visitors to meet, visit and explore our city. Operating in partnership with the City of Toronto, the Greater Toronto Hotel Association and the Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport, Destination Toronto markets and promotes the city to attract visitors and major meetings and events, and supports local businesses to maximize the opportunities of the visitor economy. For more information, please visit DestinationToronto.com.
Destination Toronto – Sr. Manager of Corporate Communications