Optimism is in the air.
One year after the SARS crisis decimated travel
to Toronto, the city is on a rebound. Rising hotel occupancy rates
and aggressive promotional spending are helping the cause.
Indeed, SARS’ dent in the regional economy may be shallower
than once feared. “SARS reduced growth by 0.8 percent,” said Paul
Ferley, assistant chief economist with the Bank of Montreal. “But
the downward impact on tourism was generally concentrated in the
second quarter of 2003.”
The bounce-back started last year. Downtown Toronto hotels, having
dipped to a record low occupancy of 42.7 percent in May 2003, rose
to 75 percent by September.
This January, these hotels began levying a 3 percent
“destination marketing fee” on guest rooms to help fund efforts by
Tourism Toronto. “Now we have $16-$17 million dollars,” says Susan
Carter, Tourism Toronto’s vice president of marketing and
communications. “We’re doing trade missions and going after
international business. We’re adding new people to our sales force,
adding sector specialists. The destination-marketing fee allows
Moreover, in February, Ontario officials pledged an additional
$22.5 million toward provincial marketing.
“Last year was challenging,” says Carter. “But the industry
here pulled together. Planners out there will know that.”