Toronto Loses Over $8 Billion in Visitor Economy Due to COVID-19 Lockdowns: Study

March 4, 2021 Updated: March 4, 2021

The global COVID-19 pandemic has cost Toronto $8.35 billion in tourism because of government-mandated travel restrictions and lockdowns over the past 12 months, according to a study.

The analysis, released by Destination Toronto on Thursday, states that the economic losses are as high as $14 billion if the Greater Toronto region is included in the calculation. The losses have mostly hit the city’s tourism and hospitality sectors, which rely heavily on visitor spending.

The economic losses of some the hardest-hit sectors are as follows:

  • Retail: $1.67 billion
  • Food and beverage: $1.3 billion
  • Accommodations: $1.2 billion
  • Attractions and entertainment: $707 million

The pandemic-associated lockdowns also impacted the meetings and events industries, Destination Toronto found.

It tracked 463 conferences and events that were cancelled or postponed since the start of the pandemic, resulting in $833 million in losses in the meetings and events sectors alone.

“Simply stated, 380,000 attendees didn’t come to Toronto over the past year. As a result, they didn’t stay in hotels or visit attractions, didn’t spend money in our retail shops, or eat in our restaurants,” said Scott Beck, president & CEO of Destination Toronto, the official destination marketing organization for Toronto’s tourism industry.

“Prior to the pandemic, Toronto had been riding a wave of momentum and experienced annual growth in visitor spending for over a decade. The foundation of our past success, rooted in the quality of our city’s experience, gives us confidence in the inevitable recovery of our industry,” he said.

In addition, reduced visitor spending has also resulted in a total loss of $1.44 billion in unrealized tax revenue for the federal government ($528 million), provincial governments ($711 million), and municipal ($205 million) governments.

The new study is based on Destination Toronto’s Visitor Economy Study (pdf) released in 2019, a report produced by Tourism Economics in partnership with the Toronto Region Board of Trade.

The 2019 study noted that the 27.5 million visitors to Toronto had generated $10.3 billion in economic activities that supported 70,000 jobs.

“When we released the Visitor Economy Study in late 2019, it showed the enormous impact of visitor spending on our local economy, and how that economic activity supports businesses and benefits all of us in city, the province and the country,” Beck said.

“Little did we know that the same study would soon be used to show the enormity of the impact of the pandemic on the people and businesses that make up the visitor economy,” he said.

Toronto Mayor John Tory said the government is “working non-stop” to make sure the hospitality and tourism sectors will come back stronger and with more jobs than before.

“Prior to the pandemic, Toronto was welcoming millions of people from the around the world who were eager to see and experience our city,” Tory said. “I am determined to work with Destination Toronto and businesses across the city to attract visitors and ensure all the success we had before COVID-19 continues when these tough times are over.”