Toronto welcomed nearly 9M visitors in 2023
Toronto’s tourist trade saw record revenues last year, even though the overall number of people visiting the Ontario capital is slightly below the number seen before the pandemic. Destination Toronto – the marketing body for the city – reports tourism revenue reached a record $7 billion last year, with the city playing host to plenty of Canadians but the number of international travellers is still lagging.
The year-end Toronto’s Visitor Economy: 2023 Market Performance Highlights report published this month by Destination Toronto reports that visitor spending surpassed pre-pandemic levels for the first time, but the city last year fell short of pre-pandemic arrivals, welcoming 8.95 million visitors. Before the pandemic, Toronto saw 9.56 million visitors in 2019 with $6.7 billion in visitor spending and over $10 billion in economic impact.
Destination Toronto spokeswoman Kathy Motton said city officials are upbeat about the coming year, but are keeping their fingers crossed that the number of international travellers will rebound in a greater way.
“The insights from the 2023 Market Performance Highlights report are positive,” she said. “The city is continuing on an upward trajectory, with visitation at 93% of 2019. While this is great news for the visitor economy, we do need to see the continued return of our international markets, business events, and business travel. The domestic market has been a welcome driver of Toronto’s recovery, but international, U.S., and business travellers often spend more and/or stay longer. The diversification of the visitor economy is a vital part of supporting economic and job growth.”
Among reasons that Destination Toronto expects this to be a strong year is that its city will host a number of events expected to draw large interest. Some of those events are annual happenings, while others clearly are not, including an opportunity for hockey fans to see the game’s greatest stars.
“2024 is jam-packed with enticing reasons to visit Toronto starting with the NHL All-Star game in February, renowned tech conference Collision here in June, a host of annual events like Pride, Caribbean Carnival, TIFF, and rounding out the year with Taylor Swift here for six shows at the end of November,” Motton states. “Add to that the diverse neighbourhoods, internally-acclaimed eats, iconic museums, buzz-worthy sports and entertainment, and rich culture, and it’s easy to see why Toronto made AFAR’s list of Where to Go in 2024.”
Andrew Weir, executive vice president, Destination Toronto, said some international markets are recovering more slowly than others and business events and business travel continue to trail leisure travel. “For our visitor economy to be the economic engine it has proven to be for jobs and growth, all of these vital markets and segments need to return to full steam.”
Domestic travellers accounted for 71 per cent of all visitors, compared to 64 per cent in 2019. International visitors to Toronto – including the vital U.S. market – have shown a slower recovery and both remain 25 per cent below 2019 levels. While Mexico surpassed 2019 visitations and Germany and the U.K. returned to roughly 75 per cent, China – the city’s largest overseas market before the pandemic – was only 24 per cent of previous levels.
Demand for accommodations continued to recover but remained 19 per cent below pre-pandemic levels.
Major meetings and events – multi-day events with more than 1,000 attendees – continue to be a core driver of Toronto’s visitor economy. In 2023 major meetings brought 290,000 visitors to Toronto.
However, both the number of meetings and total attendees remain below pre-pandemic levels, as 2019 saw 444,000 attendees in the city.
Some of the major meetings and events expected to drive visitations to Toronto in 2024 include:
- The NHL All-Star Game in February
- The American Association for Thoracic Surgery (2,600 attendees in April)
- The Pediatric Academic Societies (7,000, April)
- The Collision tech conference (35,000, June)
- The World Water Congress and Exhibition (3,000, August)
- The MedTech Conference (3,000, October)
The pandemic highlighted the crucial role visitors play to the city’s economic well-being. Toronto residents recognize the key role of Toronto’s visitor economy, with 89 per cent saying that the tourism industry is important to Toronto’s economy. Residents also see themselves as active participants in the visitor economy with 62 per cent saying they are likely to attend a live performance, 61 per cent likely to host friends or family, 60 per cent likely to attend a festival, and 59 per cent likely to visit a local attraction in the next year.
Toronto’s Visitor Economy: 2023 Market Performance Highlights report was prepared by Destination Toronto’s Business Intelligence team.
Additional insights on Toronto’s visitor economy can be found in the Market Performance Dashboard at DestinationToronto.com/research.