Toronto welcomed a record 43 million visitors in 2017

Tourism Toronto says a record 43 million people visited the city last year, spending more than $8.8 billion.

Tourism Toronto says visitors to the city last year spent close to $9B

Toronto continues to be a hit with visitors from home and abroad. (CBC)

A record 43 million people visited Toronto last year, spending more than $8.8 billion. And Andrew Weir, executive vice-president of industry association Tourism Toronto says the industry's future continues to be bright.

The industry association says the numbers represent a 3.6 per cent and 9.1 per cent bump over 2016 respectively.

"All the foundations for tourism look strong and I think that we'll see continued growth from most of our key markets over the next year," Weir told CBC Toronto.

"Everything we can see points to continued growth. In 2018 for example, we'll host the most major conventions we've ever hosted in Toronto so that shows you that the momentum is continuing and hopefully it will continue beyond 2018."

The United States with 2.9 million tourists, China with 319,000 and the United Kingdom with 263,000 were the top three source markets, but visitors also came from warm destinations like Brazil.

"What's interesting to see is that a lot of international travellers are quite willing to embrace the winter," Weir said. 

"People travel for something they don't have at home and in Brazil they don't have outdoor skating rinks. So, that's something different and an experience they can have here that you can't have in Sao Paulo. So we do see people travel and embrace the winter, sometimes more than we do ourselves."

Andrew Weir, executive vice-president of Tourism Toronto says the industry's future continues to be bright. (Tourism Toronto)

At the same time, Weir explained that a lot of the experiences around Toronto are not that different from summer to winter. 

"Great restaurants are great restaurants. We may not eat out on a patio this time of year but the food is just as great and the chefs are just as innovative and global in nature," he said.

There were nearly three million American overnight visitors and 2.1 million from overseas destinations last year.

According to Weir, there is a huge spin-off for Toronto-based businesses, adding that people are often surprised how many businesses are connected to the tourism sector. 

"When we see almost $9 billion in spending across the Toronto region from tourists, that's money being brought into our region from outside, and its being spent everywhere from hotels to restaurants, to attractions, to theatre, to live music, to retail."

'An exciting, big global city'

Meanwhile, domestic travellers visit Toronto more than any other Canadian city, with two-thirds of people visiting the city from elsewhere in the country. Tourism Toronto notes that the city saw 10.4 million overnight domestic visitors last year.

"Toronto is the entertainment centre, the sports centre of the country. We have the only major league baseball team, the only NBA team and from a business standpoint this is where the national financial centre is based," Weir explained. 

"There's a lot of reasons that people are travelling here and as a destination we're very fortunate to have those attractors here in Toronto. So, I would think that we'll continue to see strong visitation from domestic travellers and that's important to the success of Toronto as a destination but also the broader economy of Toronto."

Ballet dancers get their groove on inside a TTC subway car. ( Tourism Toronto)

The Tourism Toronto officials noted that the city gets a lot of exposure, not only from music performers, but from almost all its residents.

"The Toronto story is reaching around the world in a lot of different ways. Right here at home we have 6-million ambassadors that are sharing the story of Toronto with their friends and family," Weir said.

"There is so much exposure now for Toronto in so many different sectors. We see it when our sport teams have success, we see it when the music performers coming out of Toronto achieve international success, with Sidewalk Labs and Amazon.

"All this talk about Toronto is creating a sense of momentum and a sense that something exciting is happening there, and that creates interest. People are increasingly seeing Toronto as an exciting, big global city but also distinctly Canadian. And it's that combination of big city and our Canadian sense of welcome and progressiveness that really appeals to visitors," Weir added.

With files from The Canadian Press