TIFF returned ‘with a vengeance’ but expert says hospitality industry not ‘healthy yet’

The Toronto International Film Festival ended on Sunday after it made a strong in-person return, giving downtown a boost, but an expert says the city’s hospitality industry is still a long way from hitting the pre-pandemic activity levels.

Tourism in Toronto has yet to fully recover from COVID-19, even with the help of TIFF, according to Wayne Smith, acting director of the Ted Rogers School of Hospitality and Tourism Management at Toronto Metropolitan University.

« It’s starting to come back. I won’t say it’s healthy yet, but it’s getting better, » he said on Monday. « The recovery is coming. »

Large-scale events, such as TIFF, which bring celebrities and glamor to the city, provide an influx of business to hotels, restaurants and bars at short notice, but business travel will determine how the hospitality industry will behave for the long haul and the industry still needs to address employment issues, Smith said.

« The reality is that we are starting to bring people back but we don’t have enough staff to serve them, » he said.

Monday-Friday business travel, he said, remains the bread and butter of Toronto’s hospitality industry, he said. What remains to be seen, however, is whether businesses are doing well enough to want to travel again, he added.

Business conventions will boost the health of the tourism industry in Toronto, he said.

Smith noted, however, that the city just enjoyed TIFF, a Toronto Blue Jays game and the Terry Fox Run all in one weekend, and it was exciting to be downtown.

This weekend followed the September 13 announcement by the Michelin Guide of its first Canadian edition, with 74 restaurants making Toronto’s inaugural selection, including one two-star restaurant, 12 one-star restaurants, 17 Bib Gourmand restaurants and 44 recommended.

Toronto has seen « a lot of really good things » over the past two days, he said.

« When you add them together it creates a lot of demand in the city. And you add the excitement of Michelin’s announcement last week, put it all together you probably had a really good weekend « , did he declare. .

No data is yet available on the economic benefits of this year’s TIFF, which lasted 10 days.

Jessica Chastain poses for a photo with fans on the red carpet at the TIFF premiere of The Good Nurse last week. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Restaurateur Charles Khabouth, who runs several restaurants and clubs in Toronto, as well as the Bisha Hotel, said it was the best TIFF ever for his businesses. He called it a « comeback with a vengeance ».

« It was lively, it was very exciting, a lot of celebrities came back to town, lots of parties, lots of dinners, lots of shows before and after. Really, it was the best ever. It It was a great comeback for us and for the city,” Khabouth said.

« There was no holding back from studios, film companies, celebrities, actors and producers. They were out in force everywhere, » he said.

In an August 10, 2022 press release, the federal government said TIFF attracts more than 700,000 visitors to Toronto and represents more than $114 million in economic activity in the region.

« It also serves as a networking event for the Canadian film industry and a showcase for up-and-coming local talent, » the government said in the statement.

« Due to the pandemic, the event has moved to primarily digital screenings in 2020 and 2021, which has resulted in a loss of revenue for the local festival and tourism sector. »

The government has invested $10 million to help TIFF return in person this year. The non-repayable contribution was made as part of the government’s Major Events and Festivals Support Initiative, which supports Canadian festivals and events that have been hit hard by COVID-19.


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