As travellers begin to resume certain activities—evidenced by full patios and high demand for resorts and getaways—the unique challenges facing large urban destinations come into full view.
Gateway cities like Toronto rely on a strong mix of both leisure and business travel, and a combination of regional and international visitors. Yet while the beginnings of a local, leisure recovery become evident, the reality of the long on-ramp for business travel and international visitors is equally clear.
This past week saw two important responses to this reality for urban destinations, part of a growing recognition that this recovery requires purposeful and collaborative action aimed squarely at the needs of major gateway cities.
First, Ontario Minister Lisa MacLeod announced key supports for Ontario’s gateway cities of Toronto and Ottawa. The investments included stabilization funding for the provincially owned convention centres in each city and strategic investments in both Destination Toronto and Ottawa Tourism to address key gateway needs, particularly major meetings and conventions and international travel.
Second, the CEO’s the Boards of Trade of Canada’s three largest cities—Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver—jointly published an article calling on governments to prioritize the return of business travel as a vital catalyst for the broader economies of these cities and for Canada as a whole.
That the Boards of Trade are champions for a message about the return of business travel shows the growing recognition of the connectivity between the visitor economy and the broader economy. Travel—often business travel—is the “first date” for economic development. People often have their first experience with a city through a business trip, which can lead to further experiences and ultimately decisions on investment, trade, or even highly talented individuals choosing to relocate here.
And these benefits extend well beyond the city’s boundaries. Regions and entire provinces depend on the business travel and international visitation that flows through gateway cities and into communities all around. That’s the essence of a “gateway” city and it’s why the recognition this week—through the Province’s strategic investments and the business community’s call to action—is so vital to the recovery of Toronto’s visitor economy.