The Rebound: Toronto gears up for the return of American tourists Monday

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Posted at 6:59 PM, Aug 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-04 19:10:39-04

TORONTO (WKBW) — In less than a week, the Canadian border is set to re-open to fully vaccinated Americans for non-essential travel.

Canada has been closed to most American tourists since March 2020, but starting Monday, August 9, the Canadian government will start to allow entry to Americans who can prove they are full vaccinated against COVID-19.

However, vaccinated Americans still need to get a COVID test within three days from entry into the country.

They also need to fill out a travel questionnaire on Canada's new Arrive-Can app.

Even with all this, Canadian businesses are thrilled to have tourists welcome once again.

Pheben Kassahun takes a closer look at how the pandemic brought tourism to a standstill in Toronto, and how long it may take for this capital city to rebound.

Toronto: known for its many high-rise buildings, home of the 2019 NBA champs, and its multiculturalism has been battered by the COVID-19 pandemic, bringing tourism to a screeching halt.

Destination Toronto president and CEO, Scott Beck said, "We estimate the first year of the pandemic to have resulted in about $8 Billion in lost economic activity for the city of Toronto. I would also stress that it's still ongoing."

Every part of Toronto's visitor ecosystem was hit, and a return to normal does not look realistic for the next three to four years, according to Beck. He anticipates Toronto tourism to fully recover by 2024 and 2025.

Beck said, "With the current restrictions it's not as though the pandemic has ended the impact. We're estimating about $650M a month that is lost in visitor spending, in the city of Toronto due to the pandemic."

In a normal year, let's say 2019, Beck said about 27.5 million people visited Toronto. This resulted in an economic impact of $10.5 billion. About 70,000 businesses associated with tourism and hospitality were supported.

Now, "The Big Smoke" is working to rebound."We decided to come up with an offer— up to 25% off of our best available rate of the day with a minimum 2-night stay," The Chelsea Hotel public relations director, Tracy Ford said.Ford said this is an exclusive offer for the city's close neighbors here in New York."

We have a really great attraction like Ripley's Aquarium, of course the iconic CN Tower, the Royal Ontario Museum, the art gallery. There's a lot of things to see and do and all of those attractions are opening up or have opened up. So, by the time the border opens up, these attractions will be ready and available," Ford said.She said safety measures should not be a concern for visitors to the popular hotel.

Ford said, "We just were awarded the safe travel stamp. It's actually an international symbol to allow travelers to know that our hotel has been following proper hygiene and been following protocol."

Those arriving to "The Six" with family will have the option to have a unique social distancing adventure on water.

"The other one I can suggest, which will be interesting to Americans, would be a Houseboat Holiday. There are no houseboat holidays anywhere in New York State," DCMi president and Stars & Maple Holidays president, Prasad Gopinath said. "It's a top-of-the-line product. They can take from two people or four people, all the way up to 10 people."

Another socially distant attraction suggests is 1,480 feet high."Within four or five hours of Buffalo, there is a Blue Mountain which is very good for families," Gopinath said. "We have suits that can take from four people all the way to six people."

Of course, those who would like to stay closer to sea level will have a ton of food options to choose from.

Gopinath said, "You got Moroccan food; you've got Lebanese food. If you want Mexican food, there's a great Mexican food downtown. There's a great steakhouse— any kind of food you would like to have it's there."Though, Gopinath warns to plan ahead for safety measures.

"They have allowed restaurants to open with limited seating and social distancing, and all that," Gopinath said. "Wearing a mask is a must, it's not optional."