Tourism in Toronto continues strong upward trend

Overseas visitors increase by 26% in first quarter of 2005

Tourism Toronto The rebound of the tourism industry in Toronto continues to gather momentum, according to figures from Statistics Canada released today by Tourism Toronto, the industry-led group responsible for marketing the Greater Toronto Area to the rest of the world.

“Toronto has a passionate and imaginative story to tell, and the world is definitely paying attention once again” said Bruce MacMillan, President and CEO of Tourism Toronto, Toronto’s Convention and Visitor Association.

“We knew that 2004 represented a very significant turnaround for tourism in this city, but the indicators we’ve seen for the first quarter of 2005 continue to gain ground. It’s a strong start for the year.”

Overseas travel into Toronto saw the strongest gains, up 26% in the first 3 months of 2005. Most notably, the number of Japanese visitors increased 157%, South Korea up 46% and total visits from China up 33%.

Tourism Toronto, in partnership with the Ontario Tourism Marketing Partnership Corporation (OTMPC), strategically marketed to these regions in 2004. The increases are the result of these efforts, including participation in travel industry conferences and trade shows in Japan, additional development with tour package operators in Korea and China, and in-country promotion of new non-stop air service from Seoul and Beijing to Toronto.

Tour operators in the United Kingdom reported an 8-12% increase in bookings to Toronto for the first quarter of 2005, following an aggressive campaign undertaken by Tourism Toronto and the OTMPC that included a first-ever TV commercial aimed at potential visitors from the UK and a 16-page Sunday London Times editorial insertion, a radio campaign and a complementary retail print advertising campaign in key publications.

The ongoing decline in US visits to Canada are well-documented. However, Q1 growth in US visitors to Toronto and Ontario was among the best in Canada.

“The gains we’ve made this quarter are continued evidence of the impact our marketing and investment efforts are having – efforts only made possible by the funds generated through the Destination Marketing Fee” said MacMillan. “For years Toronto was unable to market aggressively, particularly overseas, because of a lack of marketing funds. Finally we have the resources and the results are happening to the benefit of the community.”

As a response to the significant drop in tourism brought about by 9/11 and SARS, Tourism Toronto began to receive proceeds from a 3% Destination Marketing Fee (DMF) in 2004, collected by Greater Toronto Area hotels, in order to invest in marketing member attractions, accommodations, hospitality and services.

Revenues from the DMF also enable Tourism Toronto to reinforce Toronto as a destination by investing directly in the marketing of world class original entertainment such as the Lord of the Rings stage production. Over 40% of general consumer ticket sales (through June 2nd) for the production have come from outside of the GTA, with half from the US, and others from as far away as Japan and the UK.

Tourism Toronto, Toronto’s Convention and Visitor Association is an industry association of almost 1,000 members, established to strategically market the Greater Toronto Area as a remarkable destination for tourists, convention delegates and business travelers around the globe. Tourism Toronto generates the vast majority of its funding from the 3% Destination Marketing Fee collected from the Greater Toronto Region’s hotels.

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