Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport is more than just a downtown airport: it plays a key part of the city’s integrated transportation network. And as the city continues to solidify its position as a major finance, tech and healthcare research centre in North America coming out of the pandemic, what is the full economic potential of YTZ for Toronto’s urban economy, COVID-19 recovery and GDP growth long-term?
Watch Nieuport Aviation, PortsToronto, the Greater Toronto Hotel Association have an in-depth conversation about YTZ’s future. Topics will include the role Billy Bishop plays in Toronto’s overall economic position, as well as recent findings from the study of its potential economic impact based on expanding its rapid, streamlined access for new and existing business and leisure markets across the northeastern U.S.
Speaker 1: Shouldn't he be playing basketball?
Speaker 2: Stick to basketball.
Speaker 3: Do they even have ice in China?
Speaker 4: Women's hockey is just boring, okay?
Speaker 1: Who wants to watch girls play? [crosstalk 00:01:01].
Speaker 4: Go back to where you belong.
Speaker 5: Go back where we belong, this, this is where we belong. (silence)
Gene Cabral: Good afternoon, everyone. And thank you for joining us here today for Taking Flight, How Aviation Can Boost Toronto's Economy. My name is Gene Cabral. I am the executive vice president at PortsToronto, which owns and operates Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport. I am pleased to be here along with many of my esteem panelists, Neil Pakey of Nieuport Aviation. Nieuport Aviation owns the passenger terminal at Billy Bishop Airport. Terry Mundell, President and CEO, Greater Toronto Hotel Association. Beth Potter, President and CEO, Tourism Industry Association of Canada. And finally Jan de Silva, President and CEO of the Toronto Region Board of Trade and moderator of our panel.
Before we start, I would like to [inaudible 00:02:36] a few housekeeping matters for the viewing of this presentation. This webcast is being recorded and you can watch it or other sessions at supportbusiness.bot.com, under webinars and videos. If your video is lagging, select click here to select stream to view at the lower bandwidth. For any other technical issues, click request help in the bottom right corner. Finally, to ask our panelists a question at any point you can [inaudible 00:03:04] the Q&A on the right side.
Let me start with a thank you on behalf of our almost 2,000 employees at Billy Bishop Airport for the opportunity to open this discussion this afternoon. Many of these employees have worked tirelessly, not only during the most difficult days of the pandemic, they today continue to focus on delivering an award winning and a safe journey for all of our customers. With that, just let me say a few quick words to set up the context of the discussion, given that the subject today is how aviation businesses such as Billy Bishop Airport can boost and support the economy as we emerge from the pandemic. By providing gateway to the Eastern Canada and key markets to the United States, Billy Bishop Airport fuels tourism, trade and plays an important role in getting people moving again and energizing the economy.
On the Canadian travel sector recovery of passenger members, we saw Canadian airports as of November this year sitting at about 50% in comparison of 2019. The strongest numbers coming from domestic markets and also seeing more recent growth in the US and international. It is important to note in the United States that that number is somewhere between 80 to 90% as it compares to 2019 traffic. Looking even more recently at data for the last seven days, for average passengers traveling in the United States, that sits about 84%. And in Canada, we sit at about 53% in comparison to 2019. These were pre-government announcements yesterday.
Specific to Billy Bishop Airport, we were the only airport in the top 20 in Canada to have no commercial passengers for 18 months. Having said that, although our restart and recovery or our airline partners have commenced only under a phased approach since September, we have shown growth month over month with us sitting at just under 40% when we compare November, 2021 to 2019. Also, very positive signs coming from our markets to the United States, which are almost at 50% of the 2019 levels ahead of many other airports in Canada. With that, I will turn things over to Neil Pakey of Nieuport Aviation. Neil will provide some interesting findings related to an economic impact study that was recently conducted on the potential for Billy Bishop Airport. Afterwards, we will open the session to all panelists who will provide their insights on the subject of recovery in the tourism sector, and answer a few questions. Neil, over to you.
Neil Pakey: Yeah, thank you very much, Gene, for the introduction. And I'm very pleased that so many joined us today for this session, apparently there's over a hundred people on the call, so that's great. So for those who don't know, because I think there's one or two from Europe, you can see our airport over Gene's shoulder and over my shoulder. So we're very lucky to be at an airport that's really in the heart of the downtown business community of Toronto.
Yeah. And today, we wanted to discuss about the importance of downtown airports like Billy Bishop to urban economies, and to share with you some exciting new data about the potential impact of our terminal airport to the wider region. As many of you know, Billy Bishop Airport is owned and operated by Gene's company, PortsToronto. And we're very pleased to partner with PortsToronto, and together make the airport the best it can be possibly for our passengers, airline partners, staff and the community. And we take all of that very seriously. Indeed yesterday, PortsToronto launched the electric ferry service, which is really innovation at its best in terms of where we stand today with our sustainability objectives, so congratulations to PortsToronto for that.
The terminal operations themselves I can speak to as the CEO of Nieuport. We're the owner/operator and manager of the passenger terminal at Billy Bishop, so I've got the pleasure of overseeing the terminal operations at what is a very unique airport. And the terminal operations here are as unique as the location. It's an urban airport, with incredible opportunity to use the terminal in ways that contribute to the community here through activities, engagements, public art and so forth. I was just commenting to Gene before we started about the live music that we've got going on just now, and we've installed an inspiring mural as part of the ArtworxTO program in the terminal, it's an artist, Baraket Kezwar, and she's one of the leading female graffiti artists in Toronto, which is another part of this great city. It's also a very vivid invitation for us, the message on there in the art to consider that we're not defined by what has happened to us, but really by how we show up in each moment. So it's great to see people stopping and reflecting on that as they come through our terminal.
We also recently launched an art gallery in the passenger hall featuring seven Canadian indigenous artists, as a celebration of our country's indigenous history through art reflective of our own country's diverse landscape and people. And that's what really represents our city, we're in partnership with, as I say, with PortsToronto and Billy Bishop Airport, and we get to contribute to and be a conduit for cultural richness of this city.
We're a gateway to new destinations and for tourists to Toronto, and we get to display Toronto's, and Canada's, culture and ideas within our terminal. And of course, it's also the gateway to trade and economic growth for the city. It's no secret that the past 21 months have been truly challenging to our economies, and to innovate, find new ways of working and to find resilience in a way that we could never have anticipated is all important. Our urban centers and the thriving business community around the terminal, virtually emptied out overnight. And with businesses adopting new hybrid workplace models, we just wonder, when are things going to be coming back? And then we had an announcement yesterday, which also is... It is what it is, and we are really looking forward to Q2 really of next year, meaning, March or April onwards, really to get things really moving forward.
Prior to the pandemic, the terminal was servicing 2.85 million passengers annually, helping them get to and from destinations around the region and across the Northeastern United States, that's our real catchment area. And obviously, bringing people in from those cities is fundamentally important because the wealth they bring with them keeps our economy going. It drives a constant supply of travelers for business leisure, and increasingly we see it's a combination of both really. So when the business market comes into our airport, it's really the corporate tourism that really drives a lot of the visitor spend here. It also helps the restaurants by everybody eating out and keeps heads on the pillows in our hotels and keeps the conventions going, et cetera. So when people talk about airports as being a business airport or a leisure airport, actually more and more people tend to do both when they're traveling, and we see a lot of that.
The airport fuels our local visitor economy. In fact, prior to the pandemic, InterVISTAS had estimated that the airport was contributing over two billion in net economic impact to our economy annually. And based on that figure alone, it's clear that any economic recovery needs to include the contribution of a local airport. But there's also an incredible opportunity here for Toronto, not just to recover, but to exceed our ambitions. So that study from InterVISTAS, the last one was 2017, so we recently commissioned York Aviation, a leading consultancy firm specializing in airport economic assessment to analyze the potential economic benefits of targeted investments at the airport and the terminal. The study looked at the possible impacts of strategic investments to develop air transportation services, infrastructure, and the prime one that we consider is the planned US customs and border preclearance facility in the terminal. All of that development within the managed growth capabilities already in place as part of Gene and PortsToronto's master plan from 2018.
And we found the results of the economic potential, rather astounding. The study showed that with that managed growth strategy aligned with the master plan, the airport has the potential to double its passenger volume. The economic contribution of this is not to be taken lightly, it's a total net impact of 4.8 billion in Canadian dollars, in GDP, up 2.8 billion since the pre-pandemic levels. And that's achievable by 2025, 2026. So much of the impact hinges on the important addition of the US customs and board protection preclearance facility. That would expand connectivity about up to 10 additional transporter travel links for our communities to airports in the United States. And the net impact of the new travelers, the new jobs, in fact, it could support 33,900 jobs across the economy by 2025 in our hotels, our restaurants, our transit systems, and so forth.
And we were very pleased that a York University peer group reviewed the study by York Aviation, and that was really a good sense check for them to do that. Of course, it should be noted that the study is a future orientated analysis, meaning that all the research of this kind of study makes several assumptions about market demand in order to calculate an estimate of economic potential, but it clearly demonstrates that in an increasingly global market, air transport's undeniably the catalyst to economic growth, and it's a very important lever for post-pandemic economic recovery.
In addition to the contribution to the GDP and tax revenues and job creation, the growth of this business will expand market access. Well, it's also improving trade competitiveness and business productivity. In short, by investing in and developing air transport infrastructure, Toronto can build a more robust, faster growing local and national economy. From the York Aviation's report, it's clear that Billy Bishop Airport is an asset to our city, a powerful engine for sustainable regional economic growth.
But let's not forget the direct impacts, economic development facilitates trade, investment, generates tax revenues that fund government services. For example, the taxis contributed by the airport, just the taxis could fund 470 Royal Canadian mounted police officers for a year. The same could operate the University Health Network and Toronto Paramedic Services combined for about a week. So we're talking a lot of potential, which is vitally important.
The Toronto population, for those who haven't heard, is projected to grow to over eight million by 2030, our economies will need to create jobs for a growing workforce, and our government will need to collect more revenue to support critical services. Toronto's also a dynamic business environment and an innovation hub that needs to be nurtured. In the last 20 years Toronto has doubled in size as an innovation hub, producing twice as many patents per capita in 2019 as it did in 2001. It also has the third largest number of fast growing companies in the Americas. A lot of the innovation is actually happening right here, right downtown. In round numbers, two thirds of the innovation taking place in the city of Toronto takes place within five kilometers of Billy Bishop Airport.
Further over the last 20 years, Toronto's overall propensity for air travel has increased by 50%, with Toronto Pearson and Billy Bishop developing as complimentary airports. For example, Billy Bishop provides a convenient option for the time sensitive travel to neighboring business and innovation centers like Montreal, Ottawa, New York, Boston and Chicago. Pearson, of course, is the global hub for the region, and it has the greater capacity to connect Toronto to international destinations in Canada's West Coast.
In short, Toronto needs a downtown airport, it needs one that helps remove barriers to business, that gets people home to the families more quickly and facilitates opportunity. I believe strongly that Toronto is one of the most exciting cities in the world. I've lived here three years now, and I've never come across anywhere more diverse in culture, and it's wonderfully livable for anybody who hasn't been on the call. I also believe that downtown airport will play a significant role in elevating Toronto's position on the world stage. In the wake of a global pandemic, this analysis shows we have a real opportunity, an opportunity to be part of the solution to help Toronto's economic restart, but also build an integrated transportation system that supports an exciting future, one in which hopefully the pandemic becomes a distant memory. If you'd like to see our report, it's been made available as part of this event invitation, it's also available on our website at www.dot.nieuport.com. And with that, I would like to introduce our next speaker, Jan De Silva, who will be moderating a panel discussion for us today. Thank you very much.
Jan De Silva: Neil, thanks so much for those remarks. Again, compelling numbers any way you look at it. I'm delighted to be partnering with you on the event today. And let me state to our audience, Nieuport's a very important member and an incredibly valuable partner to us. The resumption of the visitor economy, let me just simply say is a critical pillar of our work for recovery of the region. In 2019, our city alone welcomed 29 million visitors who spent more than 11 billion dollars in the city of Toronto alone. And much of that spending came from business travelers, people who came for a few meetings, a conference, or even a single afternoon, those business travelers represent trade, forward direct investment and talent attraction opportunities for us. Neil's remarks highlighted the critical importance of Billy Bishop to our business visitor economy.
And let me state, as the city's business organization, Billy Bishop is without a doubt a key source of competitive advantage for us, as a downtown airport allows quick cross-border business trips to happen. And it gives us an edge that many other urban centers simply do not have, it's also the per compliment to Pearson that is our major source of international inbound visitors. So we've got kind of this one/two combination that really sets us out.
I'm looking forward to digging into our discussion with our panel, they'll cover these benefits from a range of options. Joining Neil on the panel to discuss this is Beth Potter, our great friend, the president and CEO of the Tourism Industry Association of Canada. For nearly half a century the association has advocated on behalf of Canadian tourism businesses promoting a sector worth more than a hundred billion dollars.
Also with us is Terry Mundell, the president and CEO of the Greater Toronto Hotel Association. The association is the voice of the region's hotel industry, an industry that's so critical for the major events that we stand up in this city. He represents 170 hotels and more than 32,000 employees. This enables competitors to work together and raise the profile of the hotel sector as a vital component of our visitor economy.
And finally, we have Gene Cabral, who we heard from earlier this afternoon. Gene joined PortsToronto in 2011 and has had more than 28 years of experience in the aviation industry. He also serves as a director on the Canada Airport Council Board of Directors and the Small Airport Caucus for Ontario. All of these are important partners in our discussions about how do we position ourselves for success as we move through recovery and reopen as we ultimately get to that point. And with that I want to thank you, Beth, Terry, Gene, and Neil, for your time. Let's get into questions. And to our audience, remember, you can submit your own questions through the Q&A feature. I'll be checking my email from time to time to pick up those questions.
But let's get started. The estimates in Nieuport's report are based on a return to pre-COVID travel figures. We know from data the board acquired that more people are coming into the city than earlier this year, but the volume is still far below 2019 levels. What do you all think it will take to get back to these pre-COVID levels and ultimately realize the full economic benefits derived from travel? And let's simply assume that this current fifth wave that we're in, we will get to the other side of that, so let's think about it beyond the fifth wave. Who would like to go first? Terry, should we point to you?
Terry Mundell: Why not, somebody has to start. Thanks very much, Jan. And to the other panelists, it's a great opportunity for me to be here on the behalf of the Greater Toronto Hotel Association. I think that we all know the challenges that we face going forward. And the thing I think sometimes we forget about, as I look to the other [inaudible 00:21:54] on this call, I love to see the CN Tower, and I see the lake, the waterfront, and I think from time to time, we just forget what a scenic and fabulous city the city of Toronto is. And the one thing we know that Toronto has is a significant heart. It knows how to come back from difficult times. We've been here before. This is probably the toughest one we've been in a long time, but we've been here before.
We know from the hotel sector, that quite frankly, we got behind a little bit in the eight ball simply because we were trying to bid meetings and events where the United States had already been open. They were open for business, we were six to nine months behind trying to bring any conventional business back. Having said that, our goal is to continue to bring back meetings and events into our city. They're so important. If you looked at 2019, when we had a record year, there was over 400,000 delegates that came into the city of Toronto for just meetings and conventions alone, and that's a significant amount of money that comes into the city as well. So we need to get our meeting and convention sector back up and running, that's the important thing.
We also need to make sure there are demand generators. So if we look at the heart of the city right now, there's not a lot of activity down there yet still. We need to get in an [inaudible 00:23:18], the board has been a big proponent of trying to get people back, down into the main city we think it's important as well. We need to get to the demand generators so that we can get places, like our festivals, our events, aquariums, all of our other facilities that people come to Toronto to see and do, the zoo, et cetera. We need to get them back up and running and we need to get them running full time.
And we just started to get some of that back. And if I look at our occupancy rate, we were running at about 37% to the end of November for the year this year. But if you took a look at actually November itself and you look into December, we're actually running about 54%, so there was some good news there, we had some uptick. So clearly there's pent up demand, we just have to harness it and we have to get through this current issue that we have.
Jan De Silva: Beth, your thoughts from a Pan-Canadian perspective, because major events coming into Toronto is a feeder for other parts of the province and arguably other parts of the country. What are your thoughts on what it's going to take to get back to pre-COVID levels?
Beth Potter: Thanks, Jan. And absolutely. I mean, Toronto is a gateway for not only our province, but our country. And I think what we need to keep in mind is that there are lots of kind of outside factors that we have been trying to bring to the attention of the key decision makers. Making it simple, to travel again, making it a seamless experience is one of the things that we're going to need to see in order for travelers to feel confident in returning at the levels that they were prior to the pandemic. So we've seen changes to our proof of vaccination system, as an example. There's still work to do there in order to make sure that if Canadians are leaving the country the proof of vaccination system's going to be recognized, but we also want to make sure that we are able to recognize and except proof of vaccination systems from other countries.
All of the confusion around, what do you need to do in order to travel, as far as testing, pre, post-quarantining, staying in place. I mean, right now we're in the thick of it again, we're all having flashbacks to earlier in the pandemic. But once those subside, our forecasted modeling shows that we can actually get back to pre-pandemic levels fairly quickly, but we need to remove the barriers to travel.
And so those are the kinds of things that we're working with government on to mitigate them as quickly as possible. And of course, we've got that long border between us and our neighbors to the south and some continuity going back and forth across that border is key as well, and so working collaboratively with our neighbors to the south is going to be imperative for us to see the return of business travel, business events. Leisure travel, absolutely, but business travel and business events. And to Terry's point, getting people back into the office and back meeting face to face, those are going to be absolute core foundational pieces for us to see a return to where we used to be.
Jan De Silva: Oh, thanks, Beth. I just see, there's so many parallels between the work we're doing with large employers on the return to the downtown core. And quite frankly, the message is we need to keep it simple and we need to make it consistent. We can't have a hodgepodge of different approaches by province, by jurisdiction, our ability to keep it as seamless as possible will build and restore confidence [inaudible 00:27:09] coming back. Neil, your thoughts? Any numbers you want to throw at us? Any crystal ball you'd like to look at again? This is assuming the fifth wave will be behind us. We've gotten through the others, we will we'll work to navigate through this. Oh, you're on you mute.
Neil Pakey: The first victim to the mute button. Yeah, it's obviously been hugely difficult, to say the least, 21 months for tourism and the aviation industry there's no doubt about that. And yesterday, this week, the news of further travel restrictions in the short term, and I know the omicron variant, et cetera. I mean, for me, it really points to vaccination is the only answer really at the moment. And the vaccination, what we've learned is that the first dose is perhaps wearing off now and that's why people need the third dose, also known as a booster. But that's probably going to continue, and we shouldn't leave the gaps between getting those third vaccinations from the second one. We should have it as fast as we can have that. Because, I think, what Gene can talk to is some of the things that are actually happening at the airport. And the way, Gene led a safe travels program here.
And actually in terms of trying to reassure the market, the airport's one of the safest places to be. We don't have any employees who aren't fully vaccinate, for example. The more we can get people vaccinated, lift restrictions for all those who are, the more quickly we can recover and welcome vaccinated passengers into the city so they can spend their money, frankly, and enjoy the experience that Toronto has to offer, and rebuild economy. But I think, yeah, we've taken significant steps working together with PortsToronto, the terminal's safe, the passengers can return to the sky with confidence as soon as we are confident about the vaccination.
Jan De Silva: Yeah. Well, and Gene, over to you. I mean, I'm happy to hear about the safe airport initiatives you put in place. I've been party to a number of the calls when you've updated, it's been tremendous. But you've also been using this period of time during the pandemic to look at US preclearance facilities at Billy Bishop. And that to me is also another competitive edge, our ability to get that in place. So talk to us about safe airport, but also talk to us about how you see a US preclearance facility complimenting regional economic development? And then Terry, over to you on what that preclearance facility would mean for your members. Gene?
Gene Cabral: Jan, I really appreciate the opportunity. And before we go into the [CDP 00:30:08], I think I'll go back to Terry and Beth's comments. Because I think back to your point on recovery, I think one of the things both of them touched on that was really helpful is the pent up demand. We saw with the easing of restrictions in the summertime, the corresponding effect that had on air travel. And we saw those numbers spike during the summer, and we saw that going into the fall. So I couldn't agree more with Terry, and over to Beth, specifically, from a government policy perspective and the confusion that exists. We know there's a direct correlation between some of the challenges that we see today on messaging around testing, impacts associated with pre-departure testing, arrival testing.
So I think one of the things I would just say, before we talk [inaudible 00:30:46] CDP, is a recognition that our sector has gone well above and beyond and looking at, from a risk-based perspective, the fact that individuals coming to an airport, first of all, all of our employees are vaccinated. All of the employees on the airlines side is vaccinated. All passengers are vaccinated. So we have one of the most rigorous systems in the world, quite frankly. Plus on top of that we have our buildings that Neil runs as an example that is topnotch, complete safety with testing programs. So I think it's about making sure that there's an understanding of all of that. So I just wanted to add that, because I think Terry and Beth really hit home on those pieces of what we'll need on the recovery side.
preclearance, that's a quite exciting file for Billy Bishop. It's a file that's near and dear to my heart. I've been working with the organization for 10 years and we've been working on it for 10 years. So we see this as a key strategic initiative to unlock further value of this airport. And Neil talked about some of those significant impacts from a GDP perspective. What our view is when you look at some of the, probably four key objectives that provides as far as improvements and that we don't have today is obviously the customer experience when somebody comes through our airport and is pre-cleared. For those that have traveled into Newark, as an example, on a day where there's massive international arrivals, you may be stuck if you don't have your NEXUS card behind long wait times.
So arriving as a domestic passenger into the US improves the customer experience. Also key markets, and Neil talked about 10 markets that we can get into. This gives us access to markets like New York LaGuardia Airport, Washington National, and it looks at that growing demand for the downtown economy that we'd like to see. Enhanced security is another aspect as well, and I think the biggest piece is growing trade in connectivity from our city itself to these core markets that the city itself, it can be a key generator for the airport and for the city and for the region.
Jan De Silva: Thanks, Gene. Terry, for you, what does the facility mean for your members?
Terry Mundell: Well, thanks very much for that information, Gene. And there's no doubt that we are in a very, very competitive marketplace here, and one of the biggest pieces for whether it's business folks coming into the city, or whether it's leisure travel, the bottom line is you need access. And you need good access, you need barrier free access. And I think one of the most important things here in terms of preclearance is we really need to work together to see if we can get this pushed over the goal line. I mean, 10 years is a long time to be working on something as important as preclearance.
We all know we bring in, again, conventions from, whether it's New York City, or Boston, Chicago, Philly, some of the places you mentioned, Gene, it is really important for us, they're significant markets. It's where we do a lot of our shopping for large conventions, and it's where we get a lot of the lift from. But we really need the airport to provide and work with us, and they've been great partners. We're just in a bit of a different world here right now. Preclearance is a must, an absolute must.
For our business, it's not only about access, it's for the consumer, it's how you feel about how you get to the hotel, for us. It's all part of the destination. As we all say, I mean, you tend to leave your house with your suitcase and that's when your vacation starts, or your business trip starts. And so having that access, having that seamless transaction, being able to work through preclearance, which just makes it so much smoother, it reduces time, is a must for us. We need any edge we can get to bid conventions and large meetings, and preclearance is a big part of that.
Jan De Silva: That's great. Neil, over to you. Pandemic aside, what opportunities do you see for Toronto as an urban destination and growing technology hub in North America? We know in general terms that the airport supports local jobs and tourism, but what's the unique role of a downtown airport like Billy Bishop in facilitating our urban economy?
Neil Pakey: Yeah, thanks, Jan. I was having a look at cities, global cities around the world, and they have these comparisons, and it seems that only... In the top 25 global cities, and there's only two that have one airport and that's Hong Kong and Singapore. And of course they have very different-
Jan De Silva: [crosstalk 00:35:21].
Neil Pakey: ... geographies, as you know, Jan, to the other cities. And so I think looking at it through a lens of complementary of an airport network sometimes is actually a very useful thing to do because we start to appreciate how we all fit in together. And I would also include the likes of an airport like Hamilton in that respect, they have a role to play as well. But for us being the downtown airport, we're the one that's closest to the financial district. And the area that was striking to me in the economic impact study was around the innovation.
And that fact that Toronto's doubled in size as an innovation hub in the last 20 years, and that's actually all happening downtown or largely happening downtown, it's terrific. And that leads to higher living standards, that leads to better economic, social health outcomes for the whole community. So we're a key enabler for that. And as I said, two thirds of that innovation in the whole of the GTA area takes place in the city of Toronto, and two thirds of that takes place within five kilometers of our airport. So as technology becomes more complex and larger, international teams are needed to make progress and share risks. So innovation is increasingly a team sport enabled by frequent, convenient, affordable air transportation. So that's especially true for the types of innovation Toronto specializes in.
Jan De Silva: Well, absolutely. And I mean, probably a little known fact is our innovation sector has had record funding throughout COVID. I mean, the amount of investment that's been coming into the market has been truly remarkable. And since travel reopened in the fall, again, the proximity for investors out of New York to be able to get into Toronto has been a critical enabler for some of that. Yes, we have a lot of deal flow that's originating in Toronto, but it's just that point to point connectivity really helps enable what's happening. And many of our innovators will have offices in close locations on the other side of the border, so the airport is a critical connector for us with that.
Let's talk about Pearson for a second, and let's talk about how Billy Bishop and Pearson, I mean, we view these as incredibly synergistic, and how would you describe the synergies that both of you share, and how does this differentiate the Toronto region from other city regions? Gene, why don't we start with you, and then Neil, go over to you.
Gene Cabral: Thanks. Thanks, Jan. And I think first of all, Deborah Flint and her team, not only are they great to work with, but we collaborate on so many different files and see ourselves very much as complimentary to the admissions that we have itself. We look at some of the best practices when it comes to noise. As an example, ground run-up enclosure, which you see behind Neil's shoulder there, Toronto Pearson is actually building one in partnership with Bombardier as well. So I think from the first perspective is collaboration and connectivity directly on all the various initiatives that we think can be complimentary to each other.
Also, when you look at some of the growth that Neil referenced earlier in the city of Toronto, when you look at Southern Ontario and we look at the staggering growth that we're expecting from a population perspective, the SOAN initiative, the Southern Ontario Airport Network was brought together about sea six years ago and it really talked about bringing together these assets that are really important, not only to the city of Toronto, but to the region itself. And how do we make sure that these assets are put into the best position to succeed? So you speak about a place like Hamilton, like Neil mentioned, Kitchener, Waterloo, that's seeing growth today. So it's about being able to serve the market that we're within.
And I think one of the biggest pieces for us is, as Neil identified, every major city has at least two airports that are serving. And both of our airports, although very complimentary, we serve different missions in the sense that ours are very regionally focused, looking at high frequency, regional core markets that drive a lot of the business, the demand, and quite frankly, the leisure demand that we're talking about, and the changing demand that's going to occur post-pandemic environment as well. So as we go along, focusing on our connectivity on a regional market, Toronto Pearson was focused on the global hub strategy. They are a great global hub, and they're going to be back there again. So we see our roles very complimentary, our catchment area typically is a downtown core. So it serves complimentary missions from our perspective, as far as being able to connect people from the downtown core, whether you're business or leisure or for personal use as well.
Jan De Silva: Yeah, and it can't be underestimated. I mean, the volume of short-haul travelers that are coming through Billy Bishop and the importance of being so close to the downtown core versus 40 minutes to an hour in traffic or up Express trying to get from Pearson to downtown. I mean the long-haul international traveler tends to have a longer stay, so really critical for that quick turnaround. Terry, any thoughts from your perspective on the benefit of two airports?
Terry Mundell: Well, I think it's very important that we have both airports. Again, from my perspective, coming into Billy Bishop in the downtown core leads you to a very close proximity to a significant amount of hotels, which are there that all of your travelers use. And then again, I think Pearson has been something which we've worked with a lot, and it's a very, very important component as well because it's a global hub. That global hub itself and some of the stopover programs that we've utilized before, really bring in some core business into the city that we wouldn't normally have. So the global Hub's really important, the regional Hub's important as well. Both marketplaces, we need them both to feed, and the more people we get in to feed the hotel business, the more money, the more economic development that comes around the perimeter, the retail sectors, the restaurants, all of the other types of events that we would have. So both airports are really important, they're both hubs in their own way. But they're really important to the economic vitality of our industry.
Jan De Silva: Beth, your thoughts on the importance of both? I mean, from a tourism perspective, particularly for the tourism activity that's happening where they're coming in to see some of the sites in Toronto, going on to Niagara, possibly going into Montreal, other markets to experience Canada.
Beth Potter: Well, I think that having the two hubs are incredibly important. What we see is that when people come into Toronto, as an example, for business travel, we see direct foreign investment follow that, and that is really important. But it's not just in Toronto where that direct foreign investment follows, it follows into the region, where it's the Greater Horseshoe region or the rest of Southern Ontario. So I think it's a conduit to many other ways of doing business and ways of generating investment into our country and into our businesses. And as you said, the innovations that we have on offer here.
Jan De Silva: Yeah. Look, we started a little bit at the beginning, Neil, you touched on it, about the exciting announcement about electrifying the airport ferry. So let's focus in on climate and environmentalism and what's happening in the aviation sector. So I'd love to hear some more about this electrification of the airport ferry, but also Connect Airlines. This is a new partnership that's going to be joining us at Billy Bishop starting this spring. This is also an organization that's focused on trying to convert some of its planes to hydrogen power by 2025. So can you speak to the whole climate economy, climate agenda and how that's playing out at the airport? Gene, let's maybe start with you and then Neil, over to you.
Gene Cabral: Well, Jan, thanks for that. I think one of the things that quite frankly excites me every morning in getting up is talking exactly about that theme. And when you look at sustainability, and a major milestone we accomplished yesterday with the ferry and the electrification. And really, the roots of that was hearing from our community and hearing and looking at our outputs specifically, as far as how can we make a difference? So overnight, 530 tons of greenhouse gas emissions removed. So, I think when we hear Connect Airlines and their aspirations and where they'd like to be, these are the things that quite frankly excite us from an owner and operator of an airport perspective. Our commitment and our focus is relentless on ESG, it has to be. And I think all of us believe in that on a regular basis.
So a few things I would say that we have been working on and we will continue to work on, first of all, our master plan, if you were to look at the airport master plan, after two years of consultation, one of the themes that comes out of it is our mantra, which is, cleaner, greener, and quieter. And that is something that all of us focus on day to day. Whether it was the Marilyn Bell taxi, whether it was the Marilyn Bell ferry, whether it was aircraft that do single engine taxi, as an example, working with Nav Canada, our partners in introducing technology, specifically RNP approaches where not only do you look at fuel efficiency, but it also brings down the emissions and cuts down the time, quite frankly, that aircraft they're in air and obviously helps not only an environment, but also from a customer perspective.
So from our perspective, we are always looking for what we can be on the leading edge, looking at reductions in emissions related to noise as well. And quite frankly, watching very closely to not only what's happening in hydrogen with aircraft, but being sort of agnostic to the technologies that are coming itself. If you happen to have an electric aircraft today, we wave landing fees. So if anybody wants to bring in their electric aircraft to Billy Bishop, it is something that we encourage today, and we'd be looking forward to seeing those coming in as soon as they're available to come in. So I think when we look at it it's a relentless program built right in from our sustainability program and we will continue to make those efforts on a go forward basis.
Jan De Silva: Neil, any comments from your end?
Neil Pakey: Yeah, no, thanks very much. And yeah, we're very much in partnership with Gene and support Gene's efforts in this area. And also, a great pleasure working with PortsToronto and the community aspects, as I said in the introduction. We share a passion for that, and we're doing complimentary things with our communities.
But just on this, I might just link it back to your previous question, Jan, about Pearson. And one of the things that we have to be mindful of looking forward is airport capacity. And one thing that we've actually been doing well for Toronto is allowing Pearson to get the larger aircraft on the ground there. Their runway capacity, move the number of seats per movement has continued to rise, and there's a sort of place for us with smaller aircraft and Pearson with the larger aircraft, because there's limited capacity, and especially in peak periods, looking forward 30 years, whatever.
So we have to get that long-term planning right, and a big part of that long-term planning is the sustainability piece. We are doing our things in the terminal, there's the LED lighting now everywhere and waste diversion strategies, and we've got a very, very strong, robust ESG strategy, et cetera. But yeah, the Connect piece that you mentioned is really exciting. Both them coming in here and linking up new cities, but also what their aspirations in terms of hydrogen aircraft. And you wonder how quickly we can do it, they're very driven to try and do things by 2025, et cetera. And we have to try and help them as best we can. And it was also, I read the news of De Havilland taking an interest in the Q400 developments, and the next generation of Q400s potentially being hydrogen. So there will be no promises at this stage, but at the same time, I think everybody's hearts in it and convictions in it to do what we can and live up to PortsToronto's wishes, being the cleanest, greenest, quietest airport.
Jan De Silva: Yeah. And we look forward to partnering with you on some other initiatives, as well as we move through this. Terry, a question for you. This a question from the audience, hotels are increasingly playing roles outside of tourism, voting stations, vaccination stations, temporary housing. What other ways can we use hotels if a return to travel continues to lag?
Terry Mundell: It's a very good question, and thanks for the question. It is, without a doubt, been interesting to watch, and I am so proud of our hotel community who have really stood up throughout the pandemic. We were taking on nurses, staying at our hotels early in the pandemic and other healthcare workers, and have worked our way through to where we are now, today. It's really been something fabulous to watch and pay attention to.
I think there's a whole range of things that hotels can do. And, of course, one of the things we are paying attention to as well is the environmental situation and ensuring that our properties, when they're reinvesting in their properties, that they're reinvesting appropriately. In terms of the pandemic, actually one of the conversations we'll be having here shortly is whether or not we can utilize some of our hotels as the government's looking to put more boosters in place. And the hotels, some of them, I think may have some interest, so we've got a meeting tomorrow morning to have a little bit more discussion around that, I think which is a good piece, we'll see where that goes. But listen, there's always great ideas around what you can do for hotels. We're so lucky to have such a great industry in the Toronto area and they are willing to stand up and we've seen that through the pandemic. And I tell you, we're very, very proud of their efforts and their teams.
Jan De Silva: Yeah. And we know there's been some capacity issues, but let me speak... Pre-COVID our big concern was not enough hotel rooms for the major events that we're bringing in. So our ability to continue to protect capacity, even if we're using them for other temporary things, will stand us in good stead as we think about coming through the other side. Beth, I wanted to just flip over to you for probably the last question we're going to have time for here. And we've touched a little bit about conferences, major events, one thing I've learned as we've looked at the visitor economy is these are booking three to five years out in advance. So what advice would you have for us as the board of trade for what we can be doing in the moment to make sure that three to five years from now we're on top of our game and welcoming the visitor economy back?
Beth Potter: Well, we just finished hosting our national conference, and one of the things that we did was make sure that our communications were absolutely clear, clear, clear with our delegates, and we also tried to incorporate as many protocols in place as possible. So we had zones, comfort zones, people who didn't want to necessarily be that close, other people who are ready to hug, that kind of thing. So just, working creatively with our clients and working creatively with their venues to make sure that we can put on offer great events that will continue to build the confidence in the meeting planners to choose our destinations as their destinations, so that's one thing.
The other thing is, I talked earlier about return to work, and all of that is so important because those workers support the infrastructure that supports our events, whether it's restaurants or retail. I mean, without the day to day support of the commuter groups that come into the urban centers, we really don't have a lot to offer our visiting delegates when they come. So I just wanted to mention that to really try and emphasize how it all works together, we're all kind of keys in the same cog. And we really need to not see these as isolated topics of conversation or isolated solutions. The more that we encourage people with all of the protocols and maybe with an increase of rapid testing or whatever we have to do to get back to as normal a routine as possible, that's going to help us encourage meeting planners and big events to choose Toronto, Ontario, and Canada as a destination.
And for all of those, I just, Jan, I hope you don't mind me sharing this, but while this conversation has been taking place this afternoon, our House of Commons to just voted and passed Bill C2, which means that ongoing subsidy support for the hardest hit businesses, whether it's in downtown Toronto or elsewhere, will be a made available. It's now heading to the Senate for a vote tonight, but the House of Commons has just passed it. And that's really good news as we continue to battle the consequences of the restrictions associated with this pandemic.
Jan De Silva: No, thanks. Let me connect a few dots on what we've been discussing today. And let's start with Bill C2, and helping those parts of the economy that have been most badly impacted. I think we went into this thinking that the pandemic would be short, 60 days, 90 days, behind us. 21 months in, here we are. And what we've seen is the impact has been uneven. It's been an uneven by sectors, aviation, tourism, airport operations, it's also been uneven by business districts. The Pearson Logistics Zone, which is where all of our eCommerce shopping is being fulfilled, they're at 95% return to their work environment, but downtown Toronto, which is our largest employment zone in the country is sitting, or was sitting in November, at about 37% return to pre-COVID levels. And as Beth said, we need to build confidence in those workers to come back in order to have that vibrant experience in the city that also attracts major events to come in.
So there's multiple problems that we need to be addressing as we think about how do we move through an environment where COVID will remain a condition for the foreseeable future, and build normalcy and protocols and tools to enable us to operate and build confidence. At the same time, though we can't lose sight of the fact... The economic impacts that Neil was speaking to that we benefit from with Billy Bishop airport, and the fact that we've got two airports critically important for thinking about what the future of recovery and reopening is going to look like for the city. So the long way of trying to get to connecting the dots on a really, really important discussion today.
Neil, to you and the team at Nieuport, thank you so much for this really important body of work. We look forward to continue to work closely with you on all things around the airport.
Gene, congrats on everything you've been putting in place. And we're right there supporting you on the greenest cleanest, quietest mandate that you're trying to fulfill.
Terry, we're going to get more heads in beds as soon as we can, and thank you for everything the Hotel Association's been doing throughout the pandemic. I think our dining venues are well appreciated during this holiday season as we're trying to navigate through the next stage. So my thanks to everything you're doing.
And Beth, as always, great to have you at the table to join us and talk about it from a pan-Canadian view, but also just to demonstrate how both the return to office and the return of the visitor economy are two sides of the same coin, and we've got to get this sorted out and figured out.
So with that, again, I wanted to say a big, big, thank you to Nieuport. Aviation is such a rich and complicated subject and something that we just can't capture in a single webcast, so that's why at the board, aviation is the single topic pillar for our upcoming transportation summit on Thursday, February 3rd, 2022, just around the corner, we'll be gathering for this hybrid event. And our hope is that it can be our first, both fully in person and online event. So let's get our booster shots, let's look at the protections that we need to put in place to make this happen.
And at the summit we're going to take another look at aviation as the important economic enabler it is, examining the future of not only Billy Bishop, but Pearson as well. And that's on top of other sessions on movement of goods, transit, transportation, infrastructure, and the overall future of transportation. If you are watching this webcast, I know you'll be engaged by our summit so I encourage you all to buy your tickets online by going to bot.com and selecting events. To our panelists, once again, thank you for a tremendously important discussion and for really planting some new seeds of knowledge for our audience. And to everyone, thank you for joining us. Have a tremendous evening, stay safe and well. Bye, for now.