Spending spiked in Toronto during Pan Am Games: report

Hamilton, Ajax, Milton also reaped rewards of international sporting event

Big spending on tourist attractions, hotels and fast food in Toronto and surrounding event cities turned out to be the unofficial sport of the Pan Am Games, says a new Moneris Solutions Corp. report.

The 16-day event, which wrapped up last Sunday at the Rogers Centre with a spectacular fireworks display, also gave downtown Toronto businesses a 7.7 per cent bigger bang for their buck compared to the same period last year, says the study obtained by The Star.

In the area between Bloor St. and Harbourfront, and from Jarvis St. to Bathurst St., it found spending on entertainment — which includes museums, aquariums, theatres and movie theatres, other sports, bowling alleys and golf courses — rose by 53.2 per cent from July 10 to 26.

“That’s huge,” said Rob Cameron, Moneris’ chief product and marketing officer.

“The games were the primary draw, but this shows that while people were here they were enjoying all the entertainment and tourist attractions Toronto has to offer,” he said.

Fast food sales in Toronto jumped 22.14 per cent compared to last year – the biggest restaurant category by far — while dine-in restaurants were up 3.62 per cent and bars and pubs rose 2.36 per cent, according to the report by Canada’s largest processor of debit and credit card payments.

“It appears that visitors, including the athletes, were grabbing stuff on the go as they hopped between Pan Am events and other entertainment,” noted Cameron.

Spending in the city on international credit and debit cards was 18.7 per cent higher than the same time last year, it says, with a massive foreign tourist spending spike of 260.3 per cent on Toronto entertainment during the games than over that time in 2014.

The vast majority of international tourists were from the U.S., said Cameron.

The report also found closing ceremonies at the Rogers Centre – which featured Kanye West, Serena Ryder and Pitbull — were more of a financial boost to surrounding businesses than were the opening ceremonies. On the final day, spending in the area (with postal codes beginning with M5V and M5J) jumped 18.7 per cent compared to the same day last year, while the opening festivities attracted 11.9 per cent more sales at nearby restaurants, hotels and bars than on July 10, 2014.

Hotel spending in the GTA was up 8.2 per cent compared to the same time last July, says the study, with the number of hotel transactions up 22.62 per cent.

Meanwhile, it found Hamilton got a big boost on the final weekend of the games with men’s and women’s soccer played there, as international spending soared 124 per cent compared to July 24-26 last year.

In Ajax, where baseball was featured July 19, 25 and 26, saw an 87.9 per cent jump in foreign tourist spending, Moneris says, while international credit and debit card use in Milton, where cycling was on July 16 to 19, rose 64.5 per cent.

The York University area, where events were held July 21 to 25, experienced a 19 per cent jump in restaurant sales and an 8 per cent increase in hotel spending compared to the same time last year, the study notes.

Moneris could not provide dollar figures to show the overall economic impact of the games to the city and province, saying their data doesn’t include information from other credit and debit card processors or include the many cash transactions during the Games.

Early projections were that the games would bring at least 250,000 visitors to Ontario, $3.7 billion in new economic activity, and result in an expected 26,000 new jobs, according to an Ontario Chamber of Commerce report.

Written by: Lisa Wright