With the third wave of the pandemic now receding in Toronto and vaccination accelerating, all eyes are on opportunities for re-opening and recovery.
That recovery can’t come soon enough for the businesses within the visitor economy – the industry hit hardest and first and likeliest the last to return in full force.
From hotels and attractions, to retail, tour operators and the culinary community, it’s been a devastating 15 months the businesses that rely on visitors.
Early this year, and to mark one year of the pandemic in the city, Destination Toronto conducted an analysis that showed the impact of COVID-19 on the visitor economy. The impact stems from the Visitor Economy Study produced in partnership with the Toronto Region Board of Trade less than 6 months before the pandemic and now used as the benchmark for the impact of visitors to the city by media, government and other stakeholders across the city.
The impact of the pandemic shows that after one year, the pandemic resulted in $8.3 billion in lost economic activity. When you include the entire Toronto region that economic loss balloons to $14.3 billion.
It’s a staggering impact that stretches well beyond the businesses traditionally associated with visitors to the city including transportation and our artists and creators reliant on inbound tourism spending.
That loss also impacts our city’s meetings, conferences and events industry – a sector of the visitor economy that is a foundation of our city’s economy.
From March 2020 until the end of the year, the city saw 463 cancelled events and an economic loss of $833 million from meetings alone. That means more than 380,000 attendees that didn’t stay in our hotels, eat in our restaurants, and didn’t experience our museums, galleries and attractions.
Yet the impact is felt beyond the businesses and individuals within the tourism and hospitality. Government is tremendously impacted via tax revenue loss from all three levels of government.
There are reasons to believe Toronto’s visitor economy can return in full force in time, once businesses reopen their doors and the recovery can begin. What’s needed now is for locals across the city to support these businesses in droves to ensure that once border restrictions are lifted, the businesses that are the lifeblood of our communities are still standing when the pandemic inevitably ends.