TORONTO — Visitor spending reached a record $7 billion in 2023, but the number of visitors in Toronto remains below pre-pandemic levels, according to the year-end Toronto’s Visitor Economy: 2023 Market Performance Highlights report published by Destination Toronto.
While visitor spending surpassed pre-pandemic levels for the first time, the city is still at 93 per cent of pre-pandemic arrivals, welcoming 8.95 million visitors in 2023. Before the pandemic, Toronto welcomed 9.56 million visitors in 2019 with $6.7 billion in visitor spending and more than $10 billion in economic impact.
Domestic travellers, who have driven a disproportionate share of the growth, account for 71 per cent of all visitors compared to 64 per cent in 2019. International visitors to Toronto – including the vital U.S. market – have shown a slower recovery and both remain 25-per-cent below 2019 levels. While Mexico surpassed 2019 visitation, and Germany and the U.K. returned to roughly 75 per cent, China – the city’s largest overseas market before the pandemic – remains at 24 per cent of prior levels. Demand for accommodations also continues to recover but remains 19-per-cent below pre-pandemic levels.
Major meetings and events (multi-day events with more than 1,000 attendees) continue to be a core driver of Toronto’s visitor economy. In 2023, major meetings brought 290,000 visitors to Toronto, however both the number of meetings and total attendees remain below pre-pandemic levels, as 2019 saw 444,000 attendees in the city. Some of the major meetings and events expected to drive visitation to Toronto include the NHL All-Star Game in February, the American Association for Thoracic Surgery (2,600 attendees in April), the Pediatric Academic Societies (7,000 attendees in April), the Collision tech conference (35,000 attendees in June), the World Water Congress and Exhibition (3,000 attendees in August) and the MedTech Conference (3,000 attendees in October).
The pandemic highlighted the crucial role visitors play to the city’s economic well-being. Toronto residents recognize the key role of Toronto’s visitor economy, with 89 per cent saying that the tourism industry is important to Toronto’s economy. Residents also see themselves as active participants in the visitor economy, with 62 per cent saying they’re likely to attend a live performance; 61 per cent likely to host friends or family; 60 per cent likely to attend a festival; and 59 per cent likely to visit a local attraction in the next year.
“Toronto has always benefitted from a diversified visitor economy with strong visitation coming from within Canada as well as from the U.S. and overseas markets,” says Andrew Weir, executive VP, Destination Toronto. “Up to this point, some international markets have recovered more slowly, and business events and business travel are still lagging behind leisure travel. For our visitor economy to be the economic engine it has proven to be for jobs and growth, all of these vital markets and segments need to return to full steam.”
“Toronto’s visitor economy is a vitally important sector to the city’s economy, supporting restaurants, arts and culture, retail, attractions and creating business opportunities for local industries,” says Mayor Olivia Chow. “We salute all sectors of this industry and the contribution they make to Toronto’s vibrancy and prosperity.”