TRASH TALKING IN TORONTO
It was pretty hot news for a while here at the Star.
We got an email from one of our staffers on Monday to say he had spotted a story in the San Francisco Chronicle’s travel section that mentioned how Toronto was worse than Honduras these days in terms of tourism, what with the garbage strike and all. It sounded a little goofy. After some digging, I found that Larry Habegger at World Travel Watch had put out an advisory that mentioned how Canada was his latest “warning” given the garbage strikes in Windsor and Toronto.
Next on his list was Honduras, which has had a military coup and is in the middle of some particular nasty goings-on. As it turns out, he wasn’t putting Canada’s garbage woes ahead of machine gun-toting military types in Central America. It was simply that Canada was first alphabetically in a list of five countries he noted have issues, those being Canada, Honduras, Mexico (dengue fever), North Africa (bubonic plague in Libya) and Thailand (security for an ASEAN political meeting).
As for Toronto, Habegger was pretty mild.
“Residents living near the sites complained of the stench and visitors were surprised to see the mounds of trash throughout the city that is known for its cleanliness,” Habegger wrote at worldtravelwatch.com.
Still, the Chronicle has a substantial readership. Habegger’s column also appeared in the Chicago Tribune, which would be of more concern to southern Ontario tourism folks.
Andrew Weir of Tourism Toronto told me in a Twitter message (ain’t technology wonderful?) that the “economy and changing travel patterns are the big determinants this summer (in terms of Toronto’s tourism issues). Other forces like strike are lesser, hard to measure."
In an email to the Star, Habegger said he “didn't list Toronto as 'the' or 'a' worst place to travel, I simply included an item in my World Travel Watch column about Toronto and its garbage strike. The intent of the column is to flag for readers developments around the world that might have an adverse effect on their travels, so if they're heading for Paris and the Metro system is shut down by a drivers' strike, they'd know about it. Or in the case of this week, if heading for Honduras, know that the country's in the middle of a political crisis; dengue fever is increasing in Mexico; security is tightened for a summit in Thailand; or, garbage is piling up in Toronto because of a garbage strike.”
Given that there was no garbage pickup in Naples (the original one in Italy, not Florida) for seven months or thereabouts last year, a two-week strike in Toronto is probably not much to worry about unless you’re David Miller.
Far bigger issues for tourism-dependent hotels and restaurants in Toronto are the new passport rules for Americans and the relative strength of the Canadian dollar.
Hell, Vernon Wells’ prolonged hitting slump has probably hurt Toronto as much as the garbage strike by pushing the Blue Jays off the main pages of North American sports sections. Most tourists don’t hang out much at Christie Pits or York Mills Arena and it’s not like there’s black plastic garbage bags piling up at the Royal York (are there?)
Still, isn’t it about time to get this strike over with? I’m not seeing much leadership from either side in this dispute.