How Toronto attracts 13 million tourists each year

TORONTO – What’s the first thing people from outside Toronto think of when they see or hear about the city? The CN Tower or Mayor Rob Ford.

The city’s tourism department tries to convince travellers the city is more than just a skyline or politics.

“The further away, the more we have to educate, ” said Andrew Weir, vice president of Tourism Toronto. “The focus is on showing a really exciting, cosmopolitan, diverse city.”

Partnering with travel companies in other countries to offer packages and incentives is one method. Tourism Toronto also tries to find people to write stories and share their own experiences.

“We host over 600 journalists a year to experience the city,” he said. “There’s no better way for consumers to get a sense of what Toronto is all about than hearing it through journalists from around the world.”

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Toronto’s tourism industry estimates show 13.6 million overnight visitors stayed in 2013.

Internationally-renowned chef Susur Lee makes a point of educating others while travelling the world.

“This city is a world-class city. We have food. We have entertainment,” he said. “If you look at other big cities, you have Broadway shows. We have them all here (as well).”

Lee also hosts guests from other countries at his three restaurants in Toronto – the Turks and Caicos Tourism Board was scheduled to dine at Bent on Monday night.

One of the best ways of spreading the word about the city is through social media. It’s especially attractive for marketers because it requires a smaller budget than television and print advertising.

“The beautiful of social media these days is that you don’t need to write a massive cheque,” said Tony Chapman, founder and CEO of Capital C Communications.

“A lot of it is done through search word optimization and blogs and you get to people with influence.”

A recent survey named Toronto the fourth most attractive city out of 30 destinations worldwide.

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