Toronto and Vancouver are widely regarded as being among the world’s very best cities in which to live, but their reputations as tourist destinations and business hubs still need some work, an Ipsos global poll provided to Global News suggests.
For the survey, 18,500 respondents in 26 countries were asked to select three cities, out of a pool of 60 options, that they believed were the best to live in, visit and do business in. The combined results leave Toronto and Vancouver – the only Canadian cities in the survey – just missing out on the top 10 of best cities overall, finishing 11th and 12th respectively.
New York City retained its top spot from 2013, while Abu Dhabi jumped ahead of London and Paris to lay claim to being the second best city in the world.
When it came to livability, Vancouver was named the third best city in the world, tied with Abu Dhabi with votes from 13 per cent of respondents, and finishing behind table-topping Zurich and perennial high-ranker Sydney.
Toronto placed fifth, in a four-way tie with London, Amsterdam, Stockholm and Oslo.
When only Canadian votes are considered, Vancouver (43 per cent) beats Toronto (36 per cent) to the top spot, despite there likely being far more respondents from Toronto due to its much bigger population.
“I think Vancouver could probably be proud of that because there are probably some Torontonians who listed Vancouver in their mentions,” says Sean Simpson, VP of public affairs for Ipsos.
Generational preferences were at play, with 94 per cent of Canadian boomers and gen Xers selecting Vancouver, compared to only 73 per cent who chose Toronto. Millennials were equally sold on Toronto and Vancouver as places to live.
Notably, when all North American votes are counted, Vancouver and Toronto still rank first and second, with 31 per cent and 26 per cent respondent approval respectively. This means American and Canadian respondents (around 1,000 each) rated both cities miles ahead of New York City (14 per cent), Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington D.C. and Boston.
“We’ve been hearing ever since Trump became a serious candidate that people were eyeballing moving to Canada,” he said.
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Toronto was rated the most livable city in the world by respondents in Latin America, 17 per cent of whom picked Canada’s largest city ahead of Hispanic strongholds Madrid, Mexico City and Los Angeles. Simpson speculated that the 2015 Pan Am Games might have helped boost Toronto’s profile in Latin America.
But the Pan Am Games and other high-profile events in Toronto didn’t help it make significant gains in terms of its global tourism profile, as it retained its position as the 11th best city in the world to visit, tied with new entry Vancouver.
Paris remains the world’s favourite tourist city, followed by Rome, New York and London.
“That’s a good observation. It appears that the general likability or appeal of these cities is holding steady despite some of these other contextual things that may be happening in the world,” Simpson says.
As for Canadian cities, Simpson says the poll results suggest that more aggressive promotion is needed to attract international tourists.
“When Vancouver and Toronto don’t crack the top 10, I think it’s in part a call to action to improve our reputation and bring these cities more into the international public’s stream of consciousness when it comes to deciding where they may want to go on vacation,” he says.
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When it came to their standing as business centres, neither Toronto nor Vancouver made a concerted challenge for the top 10, finishing in 15th and 16th place respectively.
New York City took the top spot, followed by Abu Dhabi, London, Tokyo and Hong Kong. Positions six to 10 were claimed by established commercial capitals Zurich, Beijing, Los Angeles, Berlin and Shanghai.
Simpson says that Toronto, despite being Canada’s business capital, will always face a tough fight when it comes to competing with the world’s big business cities.
“Toronto’s proximity to New York makes it, almost by definition, a secondary market,” Simpson observes.
“So it’s going to be hard for the likes of Toronto to compete in that shadow.”
When only votes from G8 countries are counted, Toronto jumps from 15th place up to 8th, meaning it remains highly reputed as a business destination among citizens of other highly industrialized nations.
But Simpson advises Canadians pay more attention to votes from another bloc of nations.
“When they’re looking abroad to move to their next country and they’re trying to pick the city where they want their home base to be, we want to make sure that those Canadian cities are top of mind.”
Unfortunately, Canadian cities appear to be anywhere but top of mind among respondents from the BRIC countries – they ranked Toronto as the 15th best city in the world to do business in, and Vancouver 26th.
Simpson cautions against smug and jingoistic reactions to these findings.
“If we feel like, ‘Oh these people from other countries don’t know what they’re talking about,’ well, it’s because we’ve misinformed them,” he says. “In this poll, we’ve asked global citizens simply to pick based on their own perception… and for individual people, their perception is their reality.”
Simpson points out one encouraging trend with Toronto and Vancouver, which is that their rankings suggest they’re more well-rounded than cities like Rome for example, which finished 2nd in the tourism index but didn’t get near the top 10 in the livability and business criteria.
With a solid foundation in place, the onus is now on Canada to proactively champion its cities on the world stage and push them through the global glass ceiling, Simpson says.
“If we want to be perceived as more agreeable for business, better places for tourism and better places to live, then we need to start changing our messaging a little bit and actively promoting our major cities and making sure that people know them for what we know they’re great for.”
– These are the findings of an Ipsos Global @dvisor survey comprising 18,500 interviews, conducted between April 21st – May 5th among adults aged 18-64 in the US and Canada, and adults aged 16-64 in all other countries. The results are weighted to ensure that the sample’s composition reflects that of the adult population according to the most recent country Census data, and to provide results intended to approximate the sample universe. Further, results are weighted to give each country an equal weight in the “global” sample.