Record number of visitors expected in 2016, Tourism Toronto says

Tourism Toronto expects to top the record 14 million overnight visitors the city attracted last year, partly because of all the high-profile sports events coming up in 2016.

Tourism Toronto expects to top last year's 14 million overnight visitors

Tourism Toronto is expecting a record number of tourists to visit the city in 2016. (David Donnelly/CBC)

Tourism Toronto expects to top the record 14 million overnight visitors the city attracted last year, partly because of all the high-profile sports events coming up in 2016.

"We're well above last year's record pace," Tourism Toronto chief marketing officer Andrew Weir told CBC News. "At the beginning of the year we had the NBA All-Star Game [and] the Raptors' great run that helped drive some business."

And with the Ontario Summer Games, the World Cup of Hockey, and the world junior hockey championship slated for later in the year, Weir said the number of visitors should keep climbing.

Even if people aren't coming for the sports, Weir says the buzz around these events is enough to increase Toronto's profile. The city is already seeing a big jump in tourists from China, Mexico and Japan, he says. 
Tourism Toronto says the deep playoff run by the Raptors is helping to attract sports fans to the city. (David Dow/Getty Images)

And so far, visits from the United States are up 10 per cent, according to the agency's figures. 

That's thanks in part to people like David MacNeil, a Virginia native who just visited Toronto for the first time.

"We heard it's a beautiful, exciting city, so we wanted to check it out," MacNeil told CBC News as he stepped off a tour bus with his family on Front Street.

'July is off the charts'

Canada's weaker dollar is also playing a role in making the city more attractive for first-time guests. After plummeting earlier this year due to collapsing commodity prices, the loonie has recovered somewhat, but it's still hovering under 80 cents US.

Meanwhile, one of Toronto's largest hotels, the Sheraton Centre on Queen Street West across the street from city hall, has just completed $120 million in renovations. The facelift for the property comes as the hotel is experiencing the "busiest July we've have in years," the area managing director of the hotel's parent company said.

"July is off the charts," David Connor said. "We are over 95 per cent occupancy for the entire month."

With files from Lisa Naccarato