Photo by Nick Wong

As the industry primes itself for the summer ahead, hoteliers are looking forward to a busy season. The importance of tourism is not lost on anyone in this vibrant and dynamic industry, except — it seems — the Ontario government.

How else can you explain its recent decision to cut funding to Tourism Toronto to the tune of $9.5 million and to Ottawa Tourism by an additional $3.4 million. Surely it’s a sign that even in 2019, when tourism continues to be the world’s number-1 industry and generate innumerable positive spinoff benefits for the economy, its power is still not clearly understood by government.

While we live in an era of cost-cutting initiatives, where business leaders and governments alike must ensure costs are in line with revenues, we’re also living in a time when traditional sectors such as manufacturing are petering out and tourism and the service industries are growing.

According to the World Tourism Organization, tourist numbers have gone from 25 million international arrivals in 1950, to more than 1.3 billion in 2017. And the sector, which accounted for 10 per cent of the global economy in 2016, is projected to grow by approximately 3.3 per cent annually until 2030 (see story on overtourism on p.11).

The impact of tourism on the city’s coffers is clear. According to Andrew Weir, executive vice-president of Tourism Toronto, “Toronto has had great tourism momentum for the past eight years, with record numbers of visitors generating record spending that reached $9 billion last year. By any objective business metric, this is the time to be aggressive in generating more tourism, which is one of Ontario’s top export sectors.”

Interestingly, competition for tourists continues to intensify globally, making this draconian measure not only short-sighted, but counter-productive. In the past decade, several countries have leapfrogged over Canada’s global positioning as a tourist destination and with less funding available for marketing, we risk further erosion. As this month’s story on Why Meetings Matter (see story on p.15) illustrates, the economic benefits that accrue to a city and to a country multiply exponentially when meetings are held here and when tourists visit our cities and spend money.

The provincial government is said to be currently developing a new tourism strategy, expected to be released later this spring. Weir and other marketers in the industry, “are hopeful that strategy will make smart new investments in tourism to capitalize on the momentum and opportunity.” One can only hope they’re right.


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