A Q&A with Scott Beck, CEO of Destination Toronto, in support of 2023 Tourism Week, on how travel supports a vibrant Toronto economy.
“Tourism Week is an annual invitation for all tourism partners to come together to champion and promote Canada’s destinations, tourism businesses, and employees – from coast to coast to coast. After more than two devastating years for tourism, border restrictions have finally been removed. The rebuilding of Canada’s visitor economy is now underway, but there’s a long way to go before tourism reclaims being the $105-billion economic powerhouse it was pre-pandemic. That’s why this year’s theme is CANADA: Powered by Tourism!”
- The Tourism Industry Association of Canada (TIAC)
Terminal editor Kathy Motton chatted with Scott Beck, CEO at Destination Toronto, to discuss how visitors help power Toronto’s economy.
KM: Happy Tourism Week! Let’s start with the theme, Powered by Tourism. How do you interpret it, and how is Toronto powered by tourism?
SB: Powered by Tourism expresses the very real and impactful nature of tourism’s role in sustaining a strong vibrant regional economy. A strong visitor economy is important to everyone who lives in Toronto, whether or not they work in tourism or hospitality. During the pandemic, more people than ever became aware of the repercussions of having no visitors in our community. In our neighbourhoods there were fewer customers and less opportunities to ensure our favourite spots remained open for business. We are more attuned to the vibrancy that visitors bring to the city and the economic impact that comes from having external money stimulate local spending.
“Visitors feel welcome here because they can see themselves here. This diversity of perspectives encourages originality and innovation and is reflected in our culture, food, festivals and even business innovation.”
Toronto’s reputation as a great place to visit is closely connected to its reputation as a great place to live and work. Cities held in this respect are more likely to be chosen for a company’s new office or research facility and can help attract thought leaders and support investment and growth in other economic sectors. The economic impact from tourism goes beyond visitor spending, and in 2022 it totalled $6.6 billion. This economic impact extends beyond Canada’s most visited gateway city. International visitors take longer trips and are more likely to visit multiple destinations, with 16% of spending by Toronto regional visitors occurring outside of the Toronto region.
KM: Beyond economic impact, is there anything different about the theme, Powered by Tourism, when thinking about welcoming visitors to Toronto?
SB: Visitors contribute to the diversity and inclusivity ethos that is intrinsic to Toronto and its people. With over 53% of Torontonians born outside of Canada, the city is as diverse as the people who visit. Visitors feel welcome here because they can see themselves here. This diversity of perspectives encourages originality and innovation and is reflected in our culture, food, festivals and even business innovation. And the more international visitors who experience and feel accepted by those who live here, the deeper that inclusivity roots into our collective ethos as a place that welcomes.
“Over 90% of our guests are not from Toronto and 80% of our guests are not from Canada. We host the world to share what it is like when the world calls Toronto home.”
-Jusep Sim, CEO (Chief Epicurean Officer), Chopsticks+Forks
KM: It’s the first calendar year post-covid without any restrictions; what does this mean for Toronto and our community?
SB: First and foremost it means we are open for business! We’re at a completely different place today compared to this time last year when omicron impacted indoor activities like dining and theatre, and so many businesses were still operating with severe restrictions. While we’ve come a long way, the tourism and hospitality industry has a long way to go. As the hardest hit industry, we will also be the slowest to fully recover. Our industry is not expected to be back to pre-pandemic levels of impact until 2025, and is dependent on the full return of meetings and conventions, and the return of key international markets like China.
“If anything good came out of the pandemic, it’s that our industry is working together better than ever before. We’ve learned that aligning in advocacy and working jointly to promote our destination can help us recover faster and ensure greater business outcomes in international markets.”
Although not all markets are fully back, having visitors here and seeing the return of the vibrancy Toronto is known for is encouraging. We are expecting a busy meetings, events and conventions year, with over $600 million in economic impact already confirmed for 2023. The overall impact means busy hotels, restaurants, theatres, shopping centres, attractions and more. And as we’ve already discussed, a vibrant city is good for everyone who lives, works and plays here.
KM: As you look forward, what do you hope we can accomplish as a tourism community?
SB: If anything good came out of the pandemic, it’s that our industry is working together better than ever before. We’ve learned that aligning in advocacy and working jointly to promote our destination can help us recover faster and ensure greater business outcomes in international markets. Collaborations like Toronto Inc and Travel. Innovate. Canada. and working with partners at TIAC and TIAO, ensure stronger, more aligned messaging that can have greater economic impact for both our city and country. More of this type of coordination and partnerships will positively impact the entire ecosystem.