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TORONTO ─ More than 400 attendees gathered on June 6th at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre for the Annual General Meeting of Destination Toronto. It was the first AGM presided by incoming president and CEO Andrew Weir, who welcomed stakeholders from the tourism community to the meeting.  

Rekha Khote, Chair of Destination Toronto, opened the AGM and spoke of the group’s recent search to find a new president and CEO to replace Scott Beck, who left last year after three years at the helm. “After an extensive search, the best person was right here in front of us,” said Khote, welcoming the group’s “first homegrown CEO.” Khote referred to Weir as a “champion of our industry, who will drive growth and innovation.”

Weir took to the stage to thunderous applause by highlighting that June is National Indigenous Month as well as Pride Month, a busy time for the city’s hotel community. He spoke of the importance of the tourism community to the city, stating that in 2023, Toronto attracted 26.5 million visitors generating a $12.6 billion impact to the city’s coffers. Tourism represents 67,000 jobs to the city, said Weir and generates $3.5 billion in labour income and $8.4 billion in direct visitor spending. Weir stressed that the potential for the city is even greater. According to Board of Trade statistics, Toronto attracts 75,000 visitors a day. While Weir noted that tourism is vital to the city, he also added that Toronto serves as a gateway for the country, welcoming visitors who then go on to visit other regions of the country.

Weir said the city has rebounded from the effects of the pandemic, however, he said that international visitors have been slower to return to Toronto since the pandemic but that “now is the time to drive more demand,” citing the need to plan for growth to ensure we have the right meeting space to meet the demand of year round events. “We need to be champions,” said Weir.  

Toronto Councillor Shelly Carroll, also a board member, then took to the stage to congratulate Weir on his appointment. “It gives me a lot of calm in what we’re facing,” said Carroll, adding that tourism is “absolutely essential to our city. She pointed to the recent Visitor Economy Study, which was released at the AGM. The new study uncovers the scope and scale of Toronto’s visitor economy, showing both the immediate and continued impact of visitor spending.  

According to Weir, “There’s a straight line between visitor arrivals and economic growth, and this study reveals just how thick that line is. The impact of visitors while they’re here is clear as they spend on accommodations, dining and experiences. And their impact on our community doesn’t stop when they get on a plane to go home. They have brought new money into oureconomy that continues to support businesses and tens of thousands of jobs all throughout our city and region.”

The impact study was prepared by Tourism Economics, a division of Oxford Economics, and commissioned by Destination Toronto in collaboration with the Greater Toronto Hotel Association, Toronto Global, the Toronto Region Board of Trade and the City of Toronto. It’s based on 2023 data and provides a new view of Toronto’s visitor economy five years after the previous economic impact study, published in 2019, just prior to the pandemic.

“Visitors to the city of Toronto spent $8.4 billion in 2023,” said Tariq Khan, lead economist and study author with Tourism Economics. “While that’s higher than the previous record of $8.2 billion in 2019, inflation plays an important role in that five-year increase, as some key segments of the visitor economy have not fully recovered from the pandemic interruption.”

When considering direct, indirect and induced impacts, Khan said that 67,000 jobs are sustained in the City of Toronto by tourism spending and meetings, generating $3.5 billion in labour income. Visitor spending also contributes $2.1 billion in tax revenue to all three levels of government with the province benefiting the most at 46 per cent, or $961 million.

“If visitor spending were to disappear, each Toronto household would have to spend $1,800 more on taxes just to sustain services at the same level,” added Weir. 

The study also analyzed visitor trends and impact across the broader Toronto region. In 2023, 45.9 million visitors arrived into the Toronto region, spent $12.3 billion and generated an economic impact of $20.3 billion. In addition, these visitors who travel to Toronto often move beyond the city and region to other parts of the province.

“As Toronto attracts a substantial number of international visitors, many of those visitors extend their trip and explore other parts of Ontario,” said Khan. “We found those visitors add a further $1.7 billion, or 81 per cent of the total $2.1 billion in spending in communities beyond Toronto, showing the true gateway effect of Toronto in generating visitation and spending through the province.”

Destination Toronto also announced new board members at the AGM. Included in the new group are Angela Lawrence, Chief Culture Officer of Gusto 54 Restaurants; Dolph De Jong, CEO of the Toronto Zoo; Tuesday Johnson-Macdonald, founder of TAP Resources; and R.J. Steenstra, CEO of Ports Toronto. Khote was also voted into a new three-year term as Chair.

In closing the AGM, Khote reminded the group of the importance of resilience and patience. Toronto’s strength is in its DNA, she said, adding that the city’s secret sauce is its diversity, the mixing of different cultures and the alchemy it creates to innovate and re-invent. “Our work is to ignite our secret sauce so that we can stand out from the noise. Our board and our team are committed to tell that story.”


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