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Ontario Arts Council releases comprehensive profile of Ontario’s Arts and Culture Tourists and Their Economic Impact

Today, the Ontario Arts Council (OAC) released the Ontario Arts and Culture Tourism Profile, a report conducted by Research Resolutions & Consulting Ltd. and commissioned by the OAC. The report provides a comprehensive profile of Ontario’s arts and culture tourists and their economic impact. 

The report finds that 9.5 million overnight tourists participated in arts and culture activities in 2010, representing over one fifth of the 42.8 million overnight trips to Ontario that year. Of those 9.5 million arts and culture tourists, 66% were Canadian, 23% were American, and 1.1 million were from overseas. Arts and culture was a major draw for international tourists, with arts and culture tourists representing 39% of all American overnight visitors to Ontario in 2010, while 63% of tourists from overseas took part in arts and culture activity while visiting Ontario. 

The OAC report shows that arts and culture tourism has a significant economic impact in Ontario, with arts/culture tourist spending generating $3.7 billion in GDP in Ontario in 2010, supporting 67,000 jobs and $2.4 billion in wages and generating $1.7 billion in taxes for all levels of government. 

For more than 44% of the 20.8 million North Americans travelling to Ontario, at least one arts and culture activity was the main reason for their trip. 

Music was a major driver of Ontario tourism, as 6.5 million North American tourists took in music performances including classic, jazz, opera, popular/rock ‘n roll and country while visiting the province, making up approximately 31% of all North American tourists to Ontario. Music performances were the largest tourism driver among all Arts activities, with more attending concerts than theatre, art galleries, or ballet.

Of the 6.5 million tourists who attended music performances in Ontario, 44% of them said that the concert was their primary reason for traveling to Ontario, comprising a total of 2.9 million tourists who said that a concert was their main reason for traveling to Ontario.

The report also found that Arts festivals such as international film festivals, music, and/or literary festivals, drew 3.8 million tourists to Ontario. Music festivals were by far the biggest draw among Arts festivals, attracting 54% of these fans. The report says that “apart from music festivals, theatre is the only arts/culture trip driver to attract at least one third of group members (37%).”
While taking in arts and cultural activities, Ontario’s North American tourists also participate in many other types of activities during their trip, with 84% of them also participating in Outdoor experiences such as a nature park, and 75% of these tourists adding Shopping as part of their trip.

The Music Performance tourist group had the highest proportion of younger tourists (18 – 34 years) among all groups surveyed, with 36% of respondents in the younger age range, compared to 30% in the tourism market as a whole. 
The report also shows that the value of arts and culture overnight tourists is high, with arts and culture tourists outspending typical overnight tourists in Ontario by nearly two-to-one, spending $667 per trip in Ontario, compared to $374 spent by the typical overnight tourist.

The economic benefits of arts and culture tourists reach many other sectors, the report shows: 

  • Arts and culture tourists contributed $1.1 billion to the lodging sector, close to two-fifths of all spending on lodging by overnight tourists during the year (38%)
  • Arts and culture overnight tourists spent $1.1 billion on food and beverages, making up one-third of all overnight spending by overnight tourists (34%)
  • Arts and culture overnight tourists contributed $0.6 billion to the retail sector, or two-fifths of all spending by overnight tourists in Ontario (43%)
  • Over half of all spending by overnight tourists in Ontario came from arts and culture tourists (51%), who contributed $0.5 billion

In an OAC release, Michael Chan, Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport said “Cultural tourism is a powerful force that is transforming global travel and trends. Our diverse arts, culture and heritage has helped us attract visitors from within our borders and beyond to explore and experience our exciting province. Our government is committed to evolving our tourism strategy to align with our cultural assets – for example, harnessing live music experiences that will drive our economy and firmly place Ontario on the international map as a premier cultural travel destination.”

“The conclusions that can be drawn from this ground-breaking study confirm that the instincts and vision of Minister Michael Chan are bang on,” said Graham Henderson, President of Music Canada. “Despite the fact that music tourism has never been seriously promoted in Ontario in its history, among ALL arts activities, music remains the largest driver of tourism. It is also worth noting that music is an essential underpinning for cultural events perhaps not categorized as a music event; Toronto’s Caribbean Carnival, for example. We might also have regard to the category of “Arts Festivals.” Within this category, music festivals outclass all other sectors by a substantial margin.

And this is all without a PLAN or any focus. As our Austin study has shown, when a city or state puts its mind to it and develops a strategy, great things happen. In 5 short years, the economic impact of music in Austin jumped from $616 million to $1.3 billion. Fortunately, that is all about to change for Ontario, and the music community eagerly awaits the announcement by Minister Chan tomorrow at the Horseshoe.”

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