Toronto tourism: When all else fails, send in the clowns


Comedian Russell Peters, Toronto’s new global ambassador for tourism, says he tells friends they should come here instead of visiting other parts of the country.

“People keep going up to Vancouver and I’m like, `Why? Are you a heroin needle? Why do you need to go there? Why don’t you come to Toronto, the good city in Canada?'”

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If Peters’ jokes at his official unveiling yesterday are any indication, he’ll be far less politically correct than most ambassadors.

But Tourism Toronto, which hired him, hopes his hip international image could help Toronto overcome whatever remains of its reputation for colonial stodginess and lure big-spending Americans.

“There are a lot of great international cities in the world, but Toronto’s the best,” Peters said.

Tourism Toronto will have Peters appear at upcoming events, including a session of convention and visitor planners, who decide what cities host the biggest meetings.

“I think he’ll blow people out of the water,” said Andrew Weir, vice-president, communications, for Tourism Toronto.

Peters, who said he won’t get a salary but will have his expenses paid, said he’ll try to enlist other prominent Torontonians such as Mike Myers, Jim Carrey, Martin Short and Eugene Levy to boost the city’s visitor numbers.

Asked what he tells would-be tourists they need to see in Toronto, Peters replied, “Besides the CN Tower and the SkyDome (Rogers Centre)? The Eaton Centre. In wintertime you can go ice skating at Nathan Phillips Square. We have Chinatown, Greektown, Little India, Little Italy.”

Peters said he also enjoys the yearly street festival on Yonge St.

Told that city council had cancelled the event last year, Peters didn’t miss a beat. “Oh, good, I didn’t want that anyway.”

Tourism officials also revealed Toronto has landed its most valuable convention ever: a meeting of 25,000 members of the American Institute of Architects in June 2017 that could fill up to 40 hotels.