2011 was a record year for tourism in Toronto as the number of hotel room nights sold surpassed 9 million for the first time ever, Tourism Toronto recently announced. Additionally, for the first time since 2006, Toronto has seen an increase in overnight visitors from the U.S., while emerging overseas markets continued to show growth.
“The momentum of the past several years and repositioning of our product has propelled Toronto into another strong year,” said David Whitaker, President and CEO of Tourism Toronto. “Although not without some challenges, in 2011 we continued to focus on high-value visitors from the U.S. and looked to key overseas markets such as China, India, Brazil and Western Europe for growth.”
In 2011, Toronto welcomed 10 million overnight visitors. Visitor spending, including same day trips, totalled $4.6 billion in the Toronto region across a range of businesses and activities, employing 242,000 people in the tourism and hospitality sectors.
Business travel, meetings and conventions see major wins in 2011
Business travel and in particular, convention and meetings bookings continue to provide solid, long-term business for the region. In July 2011, Toronto won one of the most prestigious and sought-after meetings in the world as Microsoft chose the city for its 2012 Worldwide Partner Conference. More than 15,000 people are expected to attend, representing technology companies in 130 countries. Over 500 events take place during the conference and at least 30 hotels across the Toronto region will host delegates.
“Winning a prestigious meeting for such a widely admired company is not only a boost to the local economy but a testament to Toronto’s ability to host major events,” said David Whitaker.
“There’s a new buzz about Toronto that is translating into a growing awareness and interest in this community as a visitor and meetings destination that can deliver on our guests’ expectations.”
In 2011, Toronto hosted several significant events such as SWIFT-Sibos (one of the largest international banking conferences in the world), Greenbuild International Conference (for the first time outside of the U.S.) the American Bar Association, the JUNO Awards and the International Indian Film Academy Awards.
In 2011, in addition to the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference, Tourism Toronto and partners also won significant future meetings including Rotary International (20,000 attendees in 2018), the American Academy of Neurology (10,000 in 2020) and the International Confederation of Midwives (4,000 in 2017) and booked a total of 526,554 future hotel room nights.
Overseas market: China and India lead growth
The fastest growing markets are from overseas travellers which rose by 6.2 per cent and now account for 14 per cent of all visitors to Toronto.
The biggest growth is coming from China (34.5 per cent increase), India (13.2 per cent), Italy (9.3 per cent) and Brazil (9.2 per cent).
U.S. market: on the rebound
Tourism Toronto estimates show that in 2011, Toronto saw a 2.7 per cent increase in overnight visitors from the U.S. In addition, the U.S. traveller profile continued to shift toward high-value urban dwellers who are likely to fly to Toronto, stay longer and spend more. Air arrivals to Toronto from the U.S. grew by 6.7 per cent over 2010, and 19 of the previous 20 months showed increases in U.S. air arrivals.
“Toronto has a new lustre among sophisticated U.S. travellers, illustrated by its inclusion as one of Travel + Leisure magazine’s ‘Hottest Destinations in 2012,’” said David Whitaker. “Getting that kind of recommendation is a real coup and we should all be proud that the efforts so many have put into building this city over the past decade are being recognized.”
Canadian market: largest source of visitors
Toronto continues to benefit from Canadians’ propensity to visit Toronto as 6.4 million came in 2011 (a slight increase of 0.6 per cent over 2010) and spent $2.56 billion in the region. The overwhelming majority are from Ontario (79.2 per cent), as Toronto continues to be a major attraction with more than 5 million overnight visits from within Ontario in 2011. Among the Canadian provinces, Quebec and Alberta accounted for the second- and third-most visitors to Toronto at 10.2 and 3.3 per cent, respectively.
Hotel performance and growth
Toronto sold a record 9,181,769 hotel room-nights in 2011 up from 8,928,958 in 2010, an increase of 2.8 per cent.
Due in part to continued increased demand, hotel room supply has increased significantly with 1,118 new rooms coming on-line in 2011, placing Toronto third in growth in North American cities at 3.4 per cent, behind only New York City and Nashville. Even with the increase in room supply, Toronto was again among the top 10 in occupancy rankings of major North American cities (those with more than 20,000 hotel rooms–Toronto now has over 37,000 rooms).
The majority of the new hotel room inventory is in the luxury category with the recent openings of the Ritz-Carlton Toronto, Thompson Toronto and Le Germain Maple Leaf Square. With the Trump International Hotel & Tower Toronto, Shangri-La Hotel Toronto and new Four Seasons Hotel Toronto all set to open in 2012, the availability of luxury hotel options is increasing and will continue to attract high-value visitors.