A weaker U.S. dollar and a decline in corporate travel are hurting Toronto’s tourism, says the chief executive of Tourism Toronto.
But David Whitaker says he still hopes tourism can hold its own this year.
“These are challenging times,” he acknowledged. “Generally, we welcome about 11 million overnight visitors to the GTA. For the first five months of this year, we’ve been running about 12 per cent behind on hotel performance.
“Destinations all over Canada and all over the United States are seeing declines in overnight visitors, so we’re all working extra hard,” he said.
“One of the things we’re focusing on is regional travel. A lot of people are staying closer to home. Canadians staying in Canada.”
Canadian tourists are more important than ever, he said.
“There’s about 2.2 million American overnight visitors each year, and that market has been declining for several years now. The strength of the dollar has its impact.”
Although early results are soft, they’re not disastrous, Whitaker said.
“Being down 12 per cent is a lot better than being down 30, 40 per cent,” he said. “We need to see how long the rebound takes.
“Ask me in three months how we’re doing.”
Business travel is also off.
“About 20 per cent of our business is from corporate travel, meetings and the like. A lot of businesses are postponing meetings. Meetings are smaller. So that’s had an impact.”
Tourism Toronto will spend about $6 million marketing the city this season, he said.
“We’re doing everything we can to stay active, stay aggressive in the marketplace.
“We’re doing more online,” he added. “Our own website, seetorontonow .com, is all about eyeballs.
“We also continue to work in traditional media, travel sections of newspapers and magazines, lifestyle publications.”