Toronto’s tourism sector was one of the first industries hurt by coronavirus and it’s expected to lose billions of dollars in direct and indirect spending in 2020 alone.
Destination Toronto (formerly Tourism Toronto) said tourism generated around $6.9 billion in direct spending in the city during 2019, and when spin-offs are factored in the figure was closer to $10 billion.
But executive vice president Andrew Weir said tourism revenue will likely be cut in half for 2020 due to the pandemic.
“This is a challenge — the scale of which nobody ever contemplated or imagined within hospitality,” said Weir, adding that unlike SARS or economic downturns the scale of economic hardship caused by the COVID-19 pandemic is on another level.
“The road back to that is a substantial one and businesses ability to weather that storm it’s a very precarious situation right now.”
He noted that the industry began to take a hit even before lockdowns began when tourists from China stopped travelling to Canada.
Weir said the hits came early and the industry will be among the last to fully recover despite innovative efforts to help connect the food industry with customers or drive-through options for the Toronto Zoo.
But he said the pace of recovery is being set by the virus.
In order for the industry to fully recover, he said businesses and tourists alike will need to feel safe. That may not come to fruition, he added, until there is a vaccine or a cure.