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Toronto a tourist hot spot as loonie falls

Toronto a tourist hot spot as loonie falls

Posted by PanamericanWorld on February 23, 2016

Travellers from the U.S. make up the largest block of international visitors, totaling 2.48 million. Of those, about two-thirds flew to Toronto, while one-third drove, mostly from border states.

When new passport requirements were introduced in 2009 at land crossings, along with a rising Canadian dollar, which at one point was at par just three years ago, travel from border cities like Detroit, Cleveland and Buffalo quickly dropped off.

“Our competitive advantage really evaporated in the U.S. drive markets,” he said.

Toronto’s old marketing strategy to U.S. tourists was positioned around the message, “we’re the same as you, we’re friendly and familiar, but cheaper,” said Weir.

Those travellers would come for shorter periods, perhaps to catch some live theatre or visit SkyDome as it was still new. 

Tourism Toronto decided to focus its efforts on higher-yielding travellers, those who come from farther away, by air, and stay for longer, from other U.S. cities and abroad

“We could reach people who have passports and travel internationally, for whom 5 cents up or down on the dollar is not a key determinant of their travel,” he said. “They stay longer, they do more and they spend more at their destination.”

Weir added that Air Canada’s stopover program, which allows Americans to spend time in Toronto at no additional cost, while en route to destinations in Europe or Asia, is also drawing increase.

Canadian sun seekers might be grumbling about high prices for a getaway, but Toronto’s tourism industry is the big winner of the falling loonie.

Tourism Toronto says the city set another record last year, with 14.03 million visitors, who stayed at least one night. That doesn’t count 26 million day visitors, who might have flown in for a business meeting or to catch a Jays games.

The visitors spent an estimated $7.2 billion last year, up from $6.6 billion in 2014.

“What we are seeing is the recognition of Toronto as a major entertainment centre—Canada’s downtown,” said Andrew Weir, executive vice-president of Tourism Toronto, noting visitor numbers have been rising for six years in a row.

“What added to the growth was the U.S. drive market rediscovering Toronto,” he said. “This was a major bounce back year.”

“For Americans, it still has the allure and appeal of being another country. You get a stamp in your passport. You have to change your money,” he said.

Lower fuel prices have likely helped to encourage travel, given people might have little bit more disposable income.

 

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