T.O. tourism going through rough spell

Cindi Vanden Heuvel’s office on the fourth floor of Queen’s QuayTerminal gives her a lovely view of the lake and Toronto’sharbourfront. But what she really wants to see are tourists.

Cindi Vanden Heuvel’s office on the fourth floor of Queen’s Quay Terminal gives her a lovely view of the lake and Toronto’s harbourfront. But what she really wants to see are tourists.

“We have a short season, and it’s been a tough go,” said Vanden Heuvel, vice-president of Mariposa Cruises.

“The tourists are still here, but not in the numbers we’ve seen in the past.”

The cruise line’s revenues are down 25 per cent compared to this time last year. Still, Vanden Heuvel is cautiously optimistic that the year isn’t entirely lost. Bookings for August and September are starting to pick up a bit.

It’s a difficult time for Toronto’s tourism industry. Take the global recession, rising Canadian dollar, new passport requirements for U.S. visitors and rainy weather — it’s a recipe for what may turn out to be the toughest year for tourism since the SARS epidemic struck in 2003.

So far this year hotel occupancy is down about 10 per cent and the trend is getting worse.

May and June were down about 16 to 19 per cent compared to last year, according to the Greater Toronto Area Hotel Association. That puts a damper on everything from restaurants and shopping to taxis and guided tours.

“It’s not just the summer. It’s been a challenging year,” said Andrew Weir, spokesman for Tourism Toronto.

“We were holding our own a bit longer than some of the other major cities, but in the end, we’re not immune to what’s going on out there. (The recession) is fundamentally changing the way people are travelling.”

 
 
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