GTA saw growth of U.S. and international visitors in 2013

Terry Mundel addressing the meeting.

Terry Mundel addressing the meeting.

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TORONTO—The Greater Toronto Hotel Association’s (GTHA) 2013 annual general meeting, held June 11 at the InterContinental Toronto Yorkville, outlined the sector’s successes in 2013 and some of the challenges that lie ahead.

The 2014/2015 board of directors new executive committee include chair David Kelley, SoHo Metropolitan Hotel and Residences; vice-chair Mark Ive, Renaissance Toronto Hotel Downtown; secretary treasurer Andy Loges, Hilton Toronto; past chair Robert Housez, Delta Meadowvale Hotel & Conference Centre; executive member Bonnie Strome, Park Hyatt Toronto; and president and chief executive officer Terry Mundell.

Outgoing chair Robert Housez reported that in 2013, in the GTA, the accommodation sector sold over 9.2 million room nights and the destination welcomed more than 13 million overnight visitors, led by the growth of international visitors. The U.S. market grew for a third straight year, “a good sign for our business,” said Housez.

He noted that the GTHA continues to advocate on behalf of its members on such issues as the proposed casino development and expansion of the Metro Toronto Convention Centre; gratuities legislation; menu labelling; property taxes; Workplace Safety & Insurance Board issues; and beverage alcohol rules and regulations.

Of particular interest, said Housez, is an effort led by the GTHA’s partners at the Tourism Industry Association of Canada and the Hotel Association of Canada to persuade the federal government to re-invest, through the Canadian Tourism Commission, dollars into the U.S. market.

“This is an ongoing effort leading up to the federal budget that we hope will drive a multi-year program to sell our destinations into the United States,” said Housez.

Also addressing the meeting was incoming GTHA chair David Kelley, who reported on a number of challenges facing the association.

Prime among those challenges, said Kelley, is the issue of long-term sustainable funding, key to the GTHA’s ongoing marketing efforts.

Kelley also referenced Connecting America, the industry sponsored proposal for a three-year, $210 million co-ordinated tourism marketing initiative led by the Canadian Tourism Council and funded half by the federal government, with provincial, local and private-sector interests making up the balance.
Noting that Canada is the only G7 country without a program marketing travel to its domestic destination, he said that Connecting America will “re-energize the U.S. consumer.”

He added that city hotel associations across Canada should to join forces to lobby on behalf of Connect America.

Kelley said the rail link between Toronto Pearson International Airport and the downtown Union Station hub, expected to be completed next year, must feature in any future Greater Toronto Area tourism marketing plans.
Kelley touched on the Pan Am and Parapan Am Games, which Toronto will host July 10 to 26 and Aug. 7 to 15, 2015, respectively and said local hotels must work to ensure they are ready to handle the influx of visitors.

The AGM also highlighted the GTHA’s activities during the past year.

Those activities included the Spirit Awards Luncheon, held May 2, honouring exceptional ambassadors in the region’s hotel industry and recognizing 193 nominees and 20 award winners.

Other GTHA activities of note during the past year included the GTHA Speakers Series, which presented Tim Leiweke, president and CEO of Maple Leaf Sports Entertainment, who discussed the topic, ‘growing the Greater Toronto Area as a world-class sports and entertainment destination.’
In addition, the GTHA hosted a joint meeting with the TO 2015 Pan Am and Parapan Am Games committee and member hotels, which provided information to hotels on what to expect next summer when athletes and visitors arrive in the city.