They love us! Toronto ranks third on list of U.S. tourism destinations

Matthew Coutts
Toronto skyline
Toronto skyline

It's official: Americans love Toronto. At least, they love it more than Rome.

According to a prestigious new tourism report, Toronto passed the Eternal City on the list of America's favourite tourism destinations.

The 2013 Hotel Price Index, released by Hotels.com, reports that more U.S. tourists visited Toronto in 2013 than anywhere else in the world, except for London and Paris.

"Toronto surpassed Rome as the third most popular international destination for the first time since 2010," the report notes. “With the Canadian exchange at a three-year low, now is an opportune time for U.S. travelers to cross the border and explore the country’s cultural and entertainment capital."

Indeed, Canadian cities dotted the list. London and Paris ranked first and second, followed by Toronto, but three other Canadian cities placed in the top 10.

Vancouver placed fifth, while Montreal placed eighth and Niagara Falls, Ont., placed 10th. Sure, Canada is an obvious place for Americans to visit considering the proximity. But this is the best ranking Canada has had on the list in recent years. And specifically Toronto.

While the Hotel Travel Index doesn’t wax poetic about the energy of Queen Street West or the beauty of High Park, it does cut right to the point. People are spending their tourism dollars in Toronto. The findings are corroborated by statistics released by Tourism Toronto earlier this year.

According to the agency, Toronto tourism set a record in 2013, both in terms of how many overseas visitors came to the city and how many Americans visited. The city had 13.69 million overnight visitors, 2.18 million of whom were from America.

It was the third-straight year of growth Toronto had seen from the U.S. market.

“The momentum of the past several years and continued repositioning of our product has propelled Toronto to another strong year,” Tourism Toronto president David Whitaker said in February. “Our growth strategy focuses on high-value visitors from major U.S. cities and key overseas markets such as the U.K., Germany, China, Japan and Brazil.”

Hey, feel free to celebrate, Toronto. Let your flags fly high and sing whatever Drake songs you may know. If you're feeling frisky, perhaps even put to use some of those Toronto-brand condoms we just released.

[ Related: Toronto-brand condoms? Toronto the good is about to feel great ]

Ozy, an American news and culture website, mocked Toronto as a tourist destination, comparing it to Rome, in a pointedly unattractive light.

They compare Toronto's back bacon to Italian pasta, the CN Tower to the Coliseum and Pope Francis to Mayor Rob Ford.

"But then there’s the other possibility: Maybe Canada is worth exploring," writer Christine Ciarmello finally concedes. "Canadians might spell colour just like the English, and a third of the population speaks French, which makes it feel a little foreign. Lake Louise could be kind of like a turquoise-colored Como, sans Clooney. And the largest territory by acreage is Nunavut. Wait, wha … Nunavut?? It’s like a whole new icy world up there with the scene-setting Aurora Borealis and the polar bears of Churchill. Plus, there’s poutine."

To be fair, defending Toronto as a tourist destination by extolling the virtues of Canada as a whole could be seen by some as comparable to defending Jar Jar Binks by celebrating the complete Star Wars catalogue.

Still, Toronto is having a bit of a renaissance right now.

The National Post's Peter Kuitenbrouwer wrote a column earlier this week in which he noted that everyone including Montrealers, Brits and Parisians were taking notice of Toronto.

"Toronto’s presumed ranking on the coolness scale has been stuck for years below New York (bigger and more fun) and Montreal (smoked meat, respectable bagels and a decent hockey team) and others besides. Now there is change afoot," Kuitenbrower writes.

Change is afoot, indeed. And with the 2014 World Pride Festival being held in Toronto later this summer, the city will no doubt see another jump in visits.

Keep it up, Big Smoke. If we roll out a big enough welcome mat, maybe the Americans will forgive us for Justin Bieber.

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