David Whitaker, the newly appointed president/CEO of Tourism Toronto, spoke to Travel Agent from Epcot Center in Orlando, FL, where his company and the Canadian Tourism Commission recently launched a film about Canada's Canadian pavilion, part of what he calls "a fresh approach in our selling of Toronto to the U.S. traveler." Canada has been a traditional travel destination for Americans. Whitaker feels that despite the strong Canadian dollar, which for the first time in 20-plus years is on par with the U.S. dollar, Canada in general and Toronto in particular will continue to attract U.S. travelers because of the experiences that the destination offers. "Toronto has evolved dramatically into one of the top urban, cosmopolitan destinations in North America," Whitaker said. "Destinations are more about experiences than price; we're exposing people to the urban/cosmopolitan experience and the emotional value of their trip."
Another strategy for overcoming the fact that it is now more expensive for U.S. citizens to travel to Canada is, as he said, "targeting the 'high-value' customer"-in other words, the luxury market. The city has 40,000-plus hotel rooms, including several five-star properties, and new Ritz-Carlton and Shangri-La properties are currently under construction.
Whitaker touted Toronto's fine-dining restaurants, world-class museums, golf courses, theater and shopping. "Toronto has the greatest golf resorts in all of North America, its theater district is second only to New York in North America and Bloor Street rivals the finest shopping districts in the U.S.," gushed Whitaker. A theatrical staging of "Dirty Dancing" will open this November and has been generating a lot of buzz, he noted. He also trumpeted Toronto's diversity: "You can taste every ethnic palette, from Little Italy and Chinatown to Greek Town and the city's large Indian and Caribbean communities," he said.
Tourism Toronto is not just targeting the drive market. "We're looking farther a field to other major urban centers like Chicago, San Diego, Dallas and Miami to attract people who are looking for an urban, cosmopolitan experience," Whitaker said. And again, Whitaker returned to his mantra: "It all about the value of the experience, not just the price tag." Visit [www.torontotourism.com]. (DB)