Pan Am Games gold medal glory may lead to some cash registers ringing more frequently in the games’ host city of Toronto and other parts of this country as well.
Tourism Toronto COO Andrew Weir says a record medal performance by the Canadian team helped pique interest in the competitions in this country and the games are always closely followed in Latin America, boosting Toronto’s profile in some markets Tourism Toronto is eager to make inroads in.
“Exposure for Toronto in key tourism markets like Brazil and Mexico is very important,” says Weir, who adds there was a large foreign media contingent in Toronto for the games and it not only covered the competitions, but also showcased the city itself.
There were claims that there was widespread indifference to the games among Torontonians as the games drew near and suggestions in one media report that hotel occupancy rates during the competitions would actually be lower than normal for this time of year, a development that would have mirrored often disappointingly low numbers of tourists in cities hosting the Summer Olympics.
However, Weir told Travel Courier as the games neared their conclusion that there was “significant enthusiasm” in the Ontario capital after the competitions began.
Hotel occupancy rates were likely to be “roughly on par” with the norm for this time of year, he said.
Weir added that foreign media coverage not only showcased Toronto, but also a broad swath around the city, with Niagara Falls and Ottawa getting mentions, which Tourism Toronto welcomed. “When you’re bring people here on a 10- or 11-hour flight from Brazil, you need a mass of experiences,” Weir said.
Tony Pollard of the Hotel Association of Canada said the games were a plus for Canadian tourism. “There will definitely be a benefit, particularly for North and South America,” he said. “This will assist Canada’s image and get us coverage that would not otherwise be there. By correlation it recalls for me when the NHL was locked out and there were no games and correspondingly no coverage everyday on TV. Tourism suffered. It [the Pan Am Games] is all good news.”
Weir said infrastructure created for the Pan Am Games will enable Toronto to lobby to host other athletic spectaculars, with some now suggesting the city try to land the 2024 Summer Olympics.
Weir did concede that the “business benefits of the games will be unevenly experienced” by those in the Toronto area hoping to see tourist dollars.
Among hotels upbeat about follow-up business resulting from the games is the downtown InterContinental Toronto Centre. Mary Ann Gamboa, director of sales and marketing for the property, noted that, “The Pan Am Games showcased Toronto to the visitors from 41 countries and in the future these new visitors could very well build a base for future leisure and group business.”
Gamboa noted her hotel was a base for Canadian and international teams who were “creating a young athletic vibe throughout the hotel. If they have the opportunity to return to Toronto, they will be more inclined to stay with our hotel.”
The hotel celebrated the games by displaying the flags from the 41 competing countries in its lobby and having a giant screen that featured the daily game schedule, medal standings and “athlete of the day.”