Tourism numbers on the rise
By Dawn Gray
International tourism is increasing steadily across the globe, but these tourists have not necessarily been coming to Ontario. However, 2015 numbers and early data from 2016 is hinting at a recovery.
Ontario has not been able to attract visitors at the same pace as the rest of the world. A report released by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce calculated the difference between Ontario’s actual, and potential, tourism growth based on the tourism sector across the globe since 2005. The study used average visitor spending data in Ontario over the same time to calculate the missed tourism spending in the province. The data suggests that Ontario has missed an opportunity to benefit from a growing global tourism trend. This is described as a “tourism gap.”
Based on these numbers, Ontario has missed out on $16 billion in visitor spending since 2005. In other words, if the province had kept pace with global tourism growth, visitors to Ontario would have spent $16 billion more in Ontario during this period. The report’s findings also indicate that following this last decade of significant decline, Canada’s overall growth rate in attracting international visitors has recently begun to improve.
President and CEO of the Windsor-Essex Regional Chamber of Commerce Matt Marchand said to continue this improvement the province needs a plan to bring more visitors from outside the region.
“The tourism within Ontario, which is people traveling from one city to the next, has been keeping the tourism sector afloat,” said Marchand. “But where the real economic impact comes from is people from outside the region, outside of Ontario coming in to visit us here.”
A report by Destinations Canada shows that 2015 was a solid year for global tourism and marked the sixth straight year of continued growth with nearly 1.2 billion global overnight travelers. Canada’s main incoming tourist market is the U.S. These numbers rose significantly in 2015, partially due to the economic recovery of neighbours to the south and the stronger rate of the U.S. dollar.
Last year was a very good year for tourism in Canada with overnight visits up 10 per cent from the same time in the previous year. While exchange rates may be providing additional incentive, research shows that innovative marketing, collaborative partnerships and Canada’s strong reputation are all contributing to Canada’s new competitive footing.
The OCC’s report says to achieve real growth in this tourism industry Ontario must tap into the growth in the international tourism market. This requires a more intensive effort to attract international visitors and enhanced coordination amongst federal, provincial and local tourism marketing organizations.
“It a comprehensive plan province-wide. The key points are stable predictable funding and an executable strategy with targets that all of us can work towards. From a local perspective, we want to make sure that we encourage people in the metro Detroit area to visit Windsor and all of our tourism assets,” said Marchand.
International projections suggest the global tourism industry will continue to grow in the coming years. According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization, international tourist arrivals are expected to increase by 3.3 per cent per year between 2010 and 2030, reaching 1.8 billion in total arrivals by 2030. Ontario has a critical window of opportunity to tap into this global growth to boost the industry’s contribution to the economy.
Sam Helou, co-owner of the Service Market has witnessed the decline of local tourism with regards to his business. Helou has been with the Service Market since the opening in August of 1978. He is hoping that Windsor will find its place in this new global market.
“People aren’t coming here as much as they should, maybe we don’t have as many good attractions,” said Helou. “When a tourist asks where to go I tell them to check out Riverside, the sculpture garden, the museum, what else? We need more attractions.”
Currently in Windsor, the top five tourist attractions are Caesars Windsor, Point Pelee National Park, Canadian Club Brand Centre, Windsor Riverfront and EPIC (Essex Pelee Island Coast) Wine Country.
Vice President of Tourism Programs and Development at Tourism Windsor Essex Pelee Island, Lynnette Bain, said Windsor Essex is also currently experiencing strong growth in this area with hotel revenues growing in double digits in 2015 and 2016.
According to Bain, with a global share at 14 per cent of total international tourism in 2016, Windsor-Essex is now “punching above our weight globally.”
“Local indicators and Windsor-Essex tourism indicators have all increased steadily since 2012,” said Bain. “We have to continue to support small business investment, investments in attraction and stable funding for tourism development and marketing in the region.”
Windsor has been selected to host the 2017 Travel Information Services Conference. The conference will attract travel information service professionals from across Ontario and Canada to share in the latest trends and best practices.
“The two-day conference draws travel information services professionals from across Ontario and Canada and is designed to share the latest trends and innovation, best practices, and offer engagement with tourism industry partners,” said Bain.
The conference will take place at Caesars Windsor from Oct. 11 to 13, 2017.