Prospects Are Bright For Ontario Tourism  

According to a new survey of leisure travellers, tourism in Ontario looks set to continue growing as travellers reassess their holiday plans in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis.

The research was commissioned by the Tourism Industry Association of Ontario (TIAO) and conducted by tourism research consultancy, Twenty31. More than 4,000 travel consumers across southern Ontario, Quebec and selected U.S. states neighbouring Canada were surveyed in spring 2023.

That research reveals the economic crisis has hit leisure travel plans hard, with more than half of travellers (55%) saying they have either shortened a planned holiday, switched from a foreign to a domestic vacation, or cancelled it altogether in response to the crisis. Similar numbers (56%) are seriously considering making similar changes to their travel plans in 2023.

But the survey found significant enthusiasm for travelling in Ontario in the near future, particularly now the COVID-19 pandemic has eased.

More than half (54%) said they were very likely to do so, with men, higher-income earners and young to middle-aged people more likely to be planning travel within Ontario.

Encouragingly, the survey found that travel within Ontario is seen as easy – two-thirds think so (66%) within barely one in ten disagreeing. Those who see Ontario travel as difficult are most likely to cite high gas prices as the major reason (34%), though some mention delays at land borders (16%) while a few cite congestion on highways (7%) or at airports (6%).

Oliver Martin, Partner at Twenty31, pointed out that: “These findings should give confidence to tourism operators across Ontario – there is clearly plenty of enthusiasm among travellers across these nearby markets to continue exploring what’s on their doorstep during the next few years, and no major obstacles. But given their limited financial bandwidth, travellers will likely remain highly focused on value for money in the short term.”

Christopher Bloore, President of the Tourism Industry Association of Ontario, observed that: “For many Ontarians, the pandemic was an opportunity to rediscover how much their own province has to offer, and with the Canadian exchange rate now more favourable for visitors from the USA, Ontario has a real opportunity to capitalize. However, high gas prices and border delays are clearly still putting some people off – to encourage this growth in the Ontario tourism economy, government support is needed to combat these standing reputational issues.”