What does it mean to celebrate Tourism Week following a year with no tourism? People want to travel – about that there is no doubt. Yet travel remains largely on the sidelines in Canada, tied in restraints by a virus and its variants that have wrought damage calculated in both financial and human tolls.

The economic impact by now is well understood. Tourism, hospitality, meetings and live events have been among the hardest-hit sectors. Our economic analysis revealed that in the first 12 months of the pandemic alone, our city’s economy lost $8.3 billion in economic activity – the result of visitors who didn’t visit and meetings that didn’t meet. (Click here for more on that economic analysis.)

Now comes the second Tourism Week of the pandemic. Last year, the full trajectory and impact of the pandemic couldn’t yet be known. Certainly the thought that tourism businesses would remain shuttered a year later was hardly contemplated.

In some ways it feels like little has changed. In reality, much has changed. Vaccine uptake in Canada started slowly but accelerated at a world-beating pace. Governments in Ontario as well as other provinces have outlined clear paths to the resumption of business sectors. More than ever, recovery planning is in full swing.

That doesn’t mean recovery has arrived, or that the difficulties have passed. Indeed these remain some very precarious weeks and months for many businesses.

What is absolutely clear is that recovery starts with all of us, close to home. We have the opportunity this summer and fall to explore our own country and province, starting right here in Toronto.

How fortunate we are to have beaches, ravines and trails right in the city and throughout the region. The richness of our diverse neighbourhoods and culinary scene is a big part of what 27 million people travel here to experience in normal times. Many attractions, festivals and performing arts won’t be ready for us to experience again until into the fall. And when they are ready, let’s make sure we rush back with the fervor of kids chasing an ice cream truck (safely, of course).

Recovery starts with us. This Tourism Week, our industry is encouraging Canadians to travel in Canada this year. The Tourism Industry Association of Canada, in partnership with Destination Canada and provincial partners including the Tourism Industry Association of Ontario, are inviting Canadians to pledge to travel in Canada to experience the richness of Canada and to support the businesses that have weathered such a harsh storm.

Let’s all take advantage of the exceptional experiences that are right here – in our own city, our own province and across our own country. And let’s help our visitor economy regain its place as a vital economic and social engine of our communities.

Recovery starts with us.

TIAC Tourism Week Page: TourismCounts.ca

Destination Canada’s new Tourism Week video: