According to Tourism Toronto, the unofficial Centre of the Universe set a popularity record last year by welcoming 4.03 million visitors to the city who stayed at least one night. A further 26 million visitors flocked to Toronto for day trips or brief cameos.
As much as we’d love to believe these impressive numbers are a result of Toronto being the best city in the world, reality suggests Canada’s crumbling loonie played a major role.
Though Tourism Toronto Executive VP Andrew Weir wouldn’t explicitly state affordability as Toronto’s primary appeal, it’s easy to make the connection between a favourable exchange rate and correlating influx of American travellers.
“What added to the growth was the U.S. drive market rediscovering Toronto,” said Weir; travellers from the U.S. make up the largest block of international visitors, totalling 2.48 million. Weir also praised the Toronto as “a major entertainment centre—Canada’s downtown.”
The Toronto Blue Jays’ playoff run likely drew visitors from across the border, as did last summer’s Pan Am Games. A stopover program by Air Canada – which allows Americans to spend time in Toronto at no additional cost while en route to destinations in Europe or Asia – also added incentive.
“The idea is this is a place that’s worth stopping in. It’s worth taking advantage,” said Weir, who pointed out Toronto’s maturation from its old marketing pitch – “we’re the same as you, we’re friendly and familiar, but cheaper.”
It can be expected that this year will again set a tourism record for Toronto, which will host host the NBA’s All-Star Game this weekend, as well as the Grey Cup, the World Cup of Hockey, and world junior hockey tournament later this tear.