Folks at Pearson Airport and at U.S. border crossings are keeping a close eye on the budget situation in the U.S. With automatic cuts slated to come to all sorts of U.S. services if there's no budget deal between President Obama and Congress, things could get quite goofy up here in terms of U.S. Customs.
I had no idea, but Toby Lennox, Vice President, Strategy Development and Stakeholder Relations for the Greater Toronto Airports Authority, told a business meeting in Toronto on Tuesday that Pearson is the fourth largest entry point for folks headed to the U.S. (Since U.S. customs has a pre-clearance centre here, Toronto is officially an entry point and, right now, is behind only New York, Miami and Los Angeles in terms of number of customers entering the U.S.)
Lennox said things are happening in a big way at Pearson, with new restaurants (including the just-opened Fetta by celebrity Toronto chef Mark McEwan, announced just today) and new shops and lots of other changes coming down the pipe. Fetta, by the way, is located in Terminal 1 near gate E73 and serves paninis, salads and small plates. It's part of a plan to install 15 new food and beverage places at Pearson, complete with 2,500 Apple iPads that folks can use to tap out an order for a quick meal, or even a pair of socks from a nearby shop.
Included will be a wine bar called Vinifera in Terminals 1 and 3, plus a place called Marathi for Indian street food.
Transportation is always key at YYZ, and Lennox said the train that will link Pearson to downtown Toronto, with a couple stops along the way, should open in 2015. It's great and will make travel much more reliable, especially for business folks on a tight schedule who can't afford 80-minute commutes to Bay St.. But he also noted the airport draws people from all over the GTA, as well as thousands of workers, and they all need convenient, affordable transportation options.
Pearson draws about 35 million passengers a year now but that could increase soon to 42 million, partly because of growing economies and more travel demand from China and South America, as well as India and Russia. That will mean more night flights and stronger connections to those parts of the world.
Asia already is going gangbusters, Lennox said. "I have to fly next week and it was tough to get a seat."
He also said Colombia is becoming very attractive as a source of passengers for Pearson and that Africa will some day be enormously important.
To his credit, Lennox said there are major changes needed to Terminal 3 at Pearson.
As much as Pearson would like new customers from places like China, it's hard to get them if would-be Chinese tourists don't know about Canada. And right now, they don't, he said.
Lennox's comments tie into the cuts made recently to the Canadian Tourism Commission's budget and also echo concerns issued by others in the tourism business lately. Namely, that other countries are beating the pants off Canada when it comes to self-promotion and that we're badly missing the boat.