How Toronto’s Visitor Economy Helps Businesses Thrive
After struggling through more than two years of virtual meetings and events, we now truly appreciate the value of connecting with others face-to-face. The Meetings Mean Business Canada Coalition (MMB Canada) has revived Global Meetings Industry Day, first launched in 2016, to promote the significance of in-person meetings, trade shows, exhibitions and conferences in bringing together businesses and communities.
These large industry events not only help local businesses through profitable networking opportunities, but also promote positive economic growth. According to MMB Canada, in 2022, professional events raised nearly $100 billion in travel spending nationwide. Prior to the pandemic, business events held across Canada also had a $41-billion direct economic impact, a $24.3-billion direct GDP impact and have produced 229,000 direct jobs.
As one of Canada’s most popular visitor cities, Toronto generously contributes to those growing economic stats. According to a 2018 report from Destination Toronto (formerly Tourism Toronto), the city hosted 26 conventions, had 500,200 delegates and had an overall economic impact of $565 million. Now, as we’ve settled back into normalcy, those numbers are expected to continue rising.
To get a more personal look into the positive impact of industry events, we connected with three business stakeholders and asked them to share their stories.
Monica Gomez, founder and CEO of The Concierge Club
Monica Gomez first launched The Concierge Club, a premium Toronto-based event and experiential marketing agency, back in 2011. While initially a staffing agency, she saw that it had more potential. She has now executed successful campaigns and events for dozens of global and national brands including, Sephora, Cadillac Fairview and Hyundai Canada.
“Brands are looking to create more interactive, buzz-worthy events that customers can share on their social channels,” says Gomez. “We work with each brand to understand their overall objectives. From there, we create an elevated, tailored, unique experience that caters to the five senses that would excite the customer.”
Gomez’s work has drummed up a lot of national and international recognition, but of course, the success of her business relies heavily on Canada’s event and tourism sectors.
Lori Nikkel, CEO of Second Harvest
Second Harvest is Canada’s largest food rescue organization, and prevents food loss and waste through redistribution, research and education. Lori Nikkel first joined the organization in 2014 as its director of programs and partnerships, and was appointed CEO in 2018. Due to the rise of food insecurity in Canada, Nikkel says that she leans on large industry events to raise awareness of this issue and spark to partnerships.
“The Metro Toronto Convention Centre (MTCC) is a major hub for networking and thought leadership. Every opportunity Second Harvest has to attend a conference supports our goals of raising awareness of the importance of food rescue and the negative impacts of food waste on climate change,” says Nikkel. “It also helps us to make new connections for future collaborations across many different sectors.”
Vivian Fleet, the vice-president of operations at MTCC, adds that their food donation program donates to multiple organizations across the city, including the Toronto District School Board’s Student Nutrition Program and the Daily Bread Food Bank. To date, MTCC has donated more than 370,000 meals.
Joanne Gellatly, George Brown hospitality and tourism management professor
Joanne Gellatly is a professor in George Brown’s hospitality and tourism (H&T) Management program. She is passionate about educating students on the vitality of tourism in the global economy and preparing the next generation of workers for a more hybrid future.
“Conferences and tradeshows have gone to a hybrid model in the re-opening of our H&T economies,” says Gellatly. “Digitized communications are the next generation for delivering quality content and context.”
This deeper level of digital integration also helps business owners and event planners further prepare their guests for their business trips and events.
“Such integrated options in local area partnerships are part of selling our unique, multicultural destination,” she says. “[It allows] guests to plan itineraries, including local attractions, while they are attending our city.”