Toronto's 2023 Visitor Economy

Toronto’s Visitor Economy Surges with $7 Billion Spending in 2023

Toronto’s visitor economy soared to new heights in 2023, with visitor spending hitting a record $7 billion.

This surge in spending signals a significant recovery for the city, albeit with the number of visitors still trailing behind pre-pandemic levels. This key insight comes from the year-end report, “Toronto’s Visitor Economy: 2023 Market Performance Highlights,” published by Destination Toronto.

Despite this uptick in spending, Toronto’s total visitor arrivals reached only 93% of the pre-pandemic figures. The city welcomed 8.95 million visitors in 2023, a slight shortfall compared to 9.56 million visitors in 2019. Before the pandemic struck, Toronto had seen $6.7 billion in visitor spending, highlighting the current year’s impressive financial recovery.

Andrew Weir, Executive Vice President of Destination Toronto, highlighted the diversity of Toronto’s visitor economy. “Our city benefits from a mix of domestic and international visitors, including significant numbers from the U.S. and overseas markets,” he stated.

Weir also pointed out the lag in recovery for international markets and business travel compared to leisure travel, underscoring the need for a full-scale return of all market segments to boost the economy further.

Domestic travelers have been the main growth drivers, accounting for 71% of all visitors in 2023, up from 64% in 2019. However, the recovery of international tourism, particularly from the U.S., has been slower. Visitor numbers from these markets remain 25% below 2019 levels. Notably, while Mexico‘s visitation surpassed 2019 figures, other key markets like Germany and the U.K. are hovering around 75%. China, previously Toronto’s largest overseas market, is still at a mere 24% of its former levels.

Accommodation demand is also on an upward trajectory but hasn’t fully recovered, remaining 19% below pre-pandemic levels. This gradual recovery indicates ongoing challenges within the sector, despite the overall positive trend.

Mayor Olivia Chow expressed her support for the visitor economy, acknowledging its crucial role in supporting various sectors of the city’s economy. “Toronto’s visitor economy is vital for our restaurants, arts, culture, retail, and attractions. It creates business opportunities for local industries and contributes to our city’s vibrancy and prosperity,” said Mayor Chow.

Major meetings and events continue to play a significant role in driving the visitor economy. In 2023, these events attracted 290,000 visitors to Toronto. However, the numbers still fall short of pre-pandemic levels, as 2019 witnessed 444,000 attendees. The report anticipates a series of significant events in 2024, such as the NHL All-Star Game, the American Association for Thoracic Surgery, the Pediatric Academic Societies, the Collision tech conference, the World Water Congress and Exhibition, and the MedTech Conference, expected to boost visitation.

The pandemic underscored the critical importance of the visitor sector to Toronto’s economic health. The report revealed that 89% of Toronto residents recognize the tourism industry’s importance to the local economy. Moreover, residents are actively participating in supporting this sector, with a majority expressing their likelihood to attend live performances, festivals, and local attractions in the coming year.

“Toronto’s Visitor Economy: 2023 Market Performance Highlights” report, prepared by Destination Toronto’s Business Intelligence team, serves as a testament to the resilience and potential of Toronto’s visitor economy in the post-pandemic world.

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