Month: April 2020
More than One Million Jobs at Stake
We’re into week seven and we still don’t understand the full extent of the pandemic. Tourism has been hit hard, with severe implications on the critical summer tourist season. Not all economic sectors will recover at the same rate or the same time. Tourism, which was impacted early (described as a “canary in the coal mine” by Charlotte Bell, president and CEO of the Tourism Industry Association of Canada), will be one of the last economic sectors to recover. It will require a gradual and measured response than spans months, if not years. More than one million tourism jobs have been affected, and numerous tourism businesses are not expected to survive.
Unlike many economic sectors, tourism is human capital intensive. Pedro Antunes, chief economist at the Conference Board of Canada, notes: “A crisis that hits the service side of the economy is one that hits labour the most.” Mandated shutdowns led to hundreds of thousands of laid-off or furloughed workers in the sector. Current data makes it difficult to tell what jobs will be available in six months or a year.
In March, Tourism HR Canada estimated that close to 780,000 jobs were affected by COVID-19 (approximately 43% of the tourism workforce, based on a metric of 70% revenue loss), and that no jobs would be available for the 230,000 students or casual labourers usually hired for the summer season. The following week, Destination Canada reported that 1.66 million tourism employees could be laid off, which accounts for 83% of the workers in the sector. Simply put, the impact was acute, immediate…and could get much worse. (We will have a better understanding on the impact of COVID-19 on jobs when Statistics Canada releases new figures on May 8.)
According to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC, March 15, 2020), up to 50 million jobs in the travel and tourism sector are at risk due to the global COVID-19 pandemic.
There is increasing pressure and urgency to get the economy moving again. In recent weeks, several countries and now a few provinces in Canada have announced plans to start lifting some emergency measures. The anticipation of re-engaging the workforce has heightened the awareness and need for new protocols or guidelines on how to handle physical distancing and other safety measures to prevent the further spread of the coronavirus. These measures go hand-in-hand with health officials stressing the need for increased testing to monitor the containment of the virus and warnings that we could quickly revert to earlier, more stringent measures if there is a resurgence of the virus.
Assumptions and Factors Contributing to Workforce Changes
Physical distancing will continue to be enforced for some time, perhaps for as many as 18-24 months. Various articles suggest that physical distancing measures will persist until a vaccine is readily available. Consumer/public behaviours and expectations have already changed to ensure safety is preserved, in response to public health advice or sanctioned restrictions. Subsequently, the tourism sector can anticipate changes in business models and service options.
Large gatherings and high-volume travel remain banned, given concerns for sustained or increased outbreaks of the virus. The lifting of restrictions will be gradual as economic recovery is realized. Re-opening of businesses will be staggered and spotty across the country and varied by tourism industry. Many tourism businesses will remain closed and forego the 2020 season, as it will be too late in the year to generate sufficient business. Seasonal tourism businesses and those operating in rural or remote locations will be most affected, as sustained efforts will limit travellers from entering these communities.
Domestic markets are expected to recover first, with a demand for different tourism products and services than those sought by international markets. Operators will adjust their offering to align with Canadian travel interests. Travellers are expected to be thrifty because of the downturn in the economy, austerity measures, and tighter budgets. For example, quick-service restaurants, take-out, and convenience foods will gain a larger share of the market. More road travel (and less air travel) is expected, along with shorter stays or holiday periods.
What This Could Mean in Terms of Jobs, Service Protocols
Increased workforce precarity, uncertainty; decreased ability to attract and retain workers
The slow recovery will mean fewer full-time/full-year jobs and more demand for casual or part-time labour. Workers may be reluctant to return to work until they can earn sufficient wages and benefits; the incentive to return to work is diminished if unemployment benefits are greater.
Timing on recovery is unknown, and with this comes uncertainty and prudence. Employers will rehire workers or bring back furloughed staff back gradually, and many workers will not keep their jobs. Even with attractive wage subsidy programs, employers are reluctant to bring back employees until they have confidence in recovery, i.e., when they start to earn revenue.
Studies from previous pandemic or catastrophic events, such as hurricanes, or from global economic depressions identify a common theme: during the early recovery period, the industry can expect reduced staff loyalty and a significant increase in the turnover of workers. Although this may seem paradoxical, the fact is workers seek new opportunities as the economy recovers. Generally, there are more jobs available and job seekers have greater choices. Some are seeking better-paid or more stable employment, others need increased flexibility to accommodate different lifestyle requirements (e.g., childcare, elder care, education). In aging populations like Canada, many decide not to re-enter the workforce and instead retire.
Many who earn their livelihoods in tourism will be afraid or reluctant to return to work unless strict safety measures are in place for themselves and guests. Many tourism jobs are inherently risky given the inability to practice physical distancing; subsequently, workers will seek alternative employment with fewer customer-facing demands.
Workers will require new and different skills, aligned with new business models and different product or service offerings. Hands-on, interactive experiences will be diminished. The industry is expected to be subject to increased regulations related to enhanced sanitation and cleaning, compliance with new health protocols, crowd control measures, managing quarantine situations, and more.
HR practices and policies will be overhauled. For example, self-isolation or quarantine requirements will mean that sick-leave policies will change, as will requirements for staff to report illness, and for employers to follow protocols to protect other staff and customers. Imagine for a moment the possibility of a group of visitors being exposed to a worker discovered to have the COVID-19 virus; what are the obligations and protocols to alert these visitors or health authorities?
Use of strict measures, new protocols, changing business practices
Once restrictions are gradually lifted, strict health and safety protocols will be expected of workers and these will vary by the type of operation and service offer. (Protocols unrelated to staff matters will also be required and may involve capital investments.) In Canada, each provincial and territorial health authority will set the guidelines, and the protocols may vary regionally. To follow are examples of the protocols identified in recent articles or guidelines specific to workers or business practices:
- Workplaces introduce “Immunity Passports”, or a way in which staff are tested and obtain an official ‘good health’ standing before they can return to work. Employees’ temperature will be taken daily as they enter work.
- Businesses will implement stringent hygienic and cleanliness standards to meet new health and safety requirements, along with increased frequency and thoroughness of cleaning, and inspection and verification of the cleaning regime.
- Workers will routinely use masks and gloves.
- Customers will be offered free masks. Disinfecting wipes and hand sanitizing stations will be readily available public spaces.
- Customers need to have temperature taken upon arrival.
- Customer capacity will be limited to allow for physical distancing requirements, e.g., dining rooms with staggered seating times and limited customers and size of groups; bus tours and flights with 30-50% capacity; a maximum number of gamers at casino tables.
- No cash transactions will be permissible; purchases will strictly be electronic and online.
- Foodservice industry will reduce dining room services and increase emphasis on convenience foods, take-out, delivery, and room service.
- Meetings and business events will be limited to small groups, with constraints on the use of the physical space.
- Screens, voice activation (touchless activation), and other forms of technology will limit close-contact interactions.
- Larger companies may introduce Chief Safety Officers or persons responsible for managing staff and public health and security.
These possible new measures illustrate the need for tourism operators to rethink and redesign their business models and overhaul HR practices. The marketing and promotion of services will feature the public safety and security standards of practice, to provide assurances or establish confidence. Brand messaging will promote safety and security and demonstrate a ‘clean bill of health’.
Retaining a Productive and Resilient Tourism Workforce
In these unprecedented times, what should and can be done to help retain a productive and resilient tourism workforce? Tourism HR Canada has identified eight strategic initiatives that will help the industry rebound more effectively and remain competitive.
- Skills Upgrading and Cross-Training: Training on how to prevent, mitigate, and recover from COVID-19 is an absolute and immediate concern. This involves new skills for frontline, mid-level/supervisory, and executive functions—everything from elevated sanitation to creating new business models and designing new products and services. Investments are needed in new program development and alternative delivery modes. The industry will also benefit from a comprehensive inventory of qualified programs and a trusted referral system to avoid duplication and increase overall quality and capacity.
- Community Labour Force Development Plans and Related Strategies to Engage Community Stakeholders: An all-of-community approach with an emphasis on public-private partnerships and greater community collaboration will benefit a range of stakeholders.
- Awareness/Image Campaign: This would help increase the visibility of job opportunities and promote safe and healthy work environments. The campaign would promote tourism as a ‘destination for employment’ and be highly visible in preeminent tourism marketing campaigns to help change the image of the sector for both the consumer (e.g., promote recovery confidence and service standards, and the revival of economy for communities) and job-seeker (e.g., promote job attainment/career opportunities).
- Business and Human Capital Plans: Businesses must design new models and stage recovery and continuity strategies.
- Human Capital/Human Resource Plans: Operators/businesses need to adjust their HR practices to accommodate situations where staff and business practices are impacted by COVID-19.
- Strategies Dedicated to Specific Target Populations and Special Circumstances: It’s vital to address vulnerable and essential tourism workers, such as Indigenous peoples, international students, temporary foreign workers, and casual or freelance workers.
- Continued, Comprehensive Labour Market Research and Analysis
- Effective National Facilitation, Coordination, Governance: This includes leveraging the role and mandate of Tourism HR Canada to ensure that strategies and resources are optimized.
This article contains excerpts from Tourism HR Canada’s Retention, Recovery, Resilience: Managing Talent During and Post COVID-19 Employer Playbook, to be released in May. Subscribe to Tourism HR Insider to be notified of its publication. Also check out TourismHR.ca for additional information and tools to help employers cope with staffing and workforce issues related to COVID-19.
Since late March, Tourism HR Canada has been working closely with our partners to offer opportunities for ongoing professional development, cross-training, and job preparation by making a select number of Emerit online modules available for free to everyone.
Response to this offer has been incredibly positive; thousands of modules have been activated and online learning is underway in all corners of the country. We’ve heard how these courses are helping people boost their skills, whether to take on new responsibilities as workplaces undergo change or to explore new opportunities once the sector begins to recover.
In light of this overwhelming interest, Tourism HR Canada has decided to make the entire Emerit online course catalogue free of charge until the end of June, with the potential to extend into the summer based on the needs of the sector.
Tourism organizations’ response to this crisis has been nothing short of astounding. We’re all in this together and relying on each other’s strengths to steer the sector through these unprecedented times.
Tourism HR Canada could not make this offer without the collaboration and support of our Emerit partners:
- Yukon Tourism Education Council (YTEC)
- Alberta Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA)
- Saskatchewan Tourism Education Council (STEC)
- Manitoba Tourism Education Council (MTEC)
- Ontario Tourism Education Corporation (OTEC)
- Conseil québécois des ressources humaines en tourisme (CQRHT)
- Tourism Industry Association of New Brunswick (TIANB)
- Nova Scotia Tourism Human Resource Council (NSTHRC)
- Tourism Industry Association of Prince Edward Island (TIAPEI)
- Hospitality Newfoundland and Labrador (HNL)
The expanded list of Emerit online courses now available to the sector for FREE (in both English and French) includes:
- Bartender – All Modules
- Canadian Workplace Essentials – All Modules
- Event Coordinator – All Modules
- Event Manager – All Modules
- Food & Beverage Manager – All Modules
- Food & Beverage Server – All Modules
- Front Desk Agent – All Modules
- Heritage Interpreter – All Modules
- Housekeeping Room Attendant – All Modules
- HR Toolkit – All Modules
- Line Cook – All Modules
- Providing Quality Service
- Reservation Sales Agent – All Modules
- Sales Manager – All Modules
- Supervisor – All Modules
- Tourism Visitor Information Counsellor – All Modules
- Workplace Essentials – All Modules
Visit emerit.ca to learn more and access this free tourism training.
COVID-19 has caused an abrupt and deep shock to society and the global economy. The tourism sector is profoundly impacted, with significant disruption to businesses, trade channels, and DMOs. Tourism Economics (a division of Oxford Economics) suggests a global return to 2019 tourism levels by 2023—but only under certain conditions.
As the national HR organization working for Canada’s tourism sector, our goal is to provide the knowledge and tools to help tourism employers rebound from the crisis and build a resilient workforce. We’re here to help tourism SMEs as a new global tourism landscape emerges.
In the weeks and months ahead, business survival will turn to business recovery, with a new set of questions to address:
- Have my customers changed?
- Should I only be focused on the regional and domestic market?
- How can I best build back my financial reserves?
- Can I lower my overheads and increase my margins?
- How do I re-tool my offering to focus on an almost exclusive regional tourism consumer?
Tourism HR Canada is in the process of creating a no-cost, easy to access and use, comprehensive and bilingual online COVID-19 Tourism Workforce Recovery Toolkit.
This new resource is based on best practices and aligned with needs identified by employers. Its insightful and business-friendly content will directly support Canadian tourism SMEs as they recover and build medium- and longer-term resiliency, including preparing for potential next waves of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Toolkit is part of a fast-tracked update to one of our core Emerit resources, Business Builders. It will be a practical web-based program that includes presentations, downloadable content and tools, notifications of new material, and more. It will be updated regularly with evergreen content focused on topics like:
- human resources
- crisis communications
- budget & finance
- strategic planning
The COVID-19 Tourism Workforce Recovery Toolkit is an extension of the free online training that we announced in March. Further details on its early summer release will be announced in Tourism HR Insider and on our social media channels—be sure to subscribe to be among the first to know.
Tourism HR Canada was invited as a witness to the Standing Committee on Finance, on April 8, to discuss COVID-19. The Panel on Tourism and Hospitality also included statements by the Tourism Industry Association of Canada, the Hotel Association of Canada, the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada—each represented on Tourism HR Canada’s Board of Directors—and others.
Philip Mondor, Tourism HR Canada President and CEO, provided insights on the current impact of COVID-19 on the tourism workforce. Here is his statement made to the Parliamentary Committee:
There are 750,000 jobs directly attributed to revenues derived from tourists; this accounts for 2% of GDP. These jobs would not exist if it were not for the visitor economy.
Many tourism businesses also receive significant revenues from Canadian residents, which supports additional employment. When we measure everyone working in the tourism sector, we employ 1.8 million Canadians, and when we consider all economic activity in tourism industries, we contribute 5.1% to Canada’s GDP. (The five industries that make up the tourism sector are: Accommodations, Food & Beverage Services, Recreation & Entertainment, Transportation, and Travel Services.)
Three weeks ago, Tourism HR Canada did the first forecasting of job losses due to COVID-19. This was estimated at a minimum of 360,000 (an optimistic projection) and potentially as high as 770,000 (based on a metric of 70% revenue loss). If you add the moratorium on hiring students or casual labour for the sector during its peak season, another 215,000 to 230,000 will not get tourism jobs. And, normally, there is an increase in hours for permanent staff during this season. This, too, will not be realized.
Current evidence suggests the job losses in this short term are approaching one million workers. For example:
- Restaurants Canada estimated that 1.2 million individuals will lose jobs in the foodservice industry, and two weeks ago reported that 800,000 workers were already laid off.
- The Hotel Association of Canada estimated a 250,000 job loss, with 153,000 in Ontario and Quebec, and another 68,000 in British Columbia.
Over the past two weeks, increasing job losses are being reported. Although the measurement metrics are different, and these figures refer to different timeframes and scenarios, the story is the same: the tourism sector has been hit hard, with large-scale layoffs. This is true across Canada, affecting more than 10% of the labour market.
New data from the Conference Board of Canada suggests 2.8 million jobs lost across the economy for March and April alone. Looking at what is attributed to tourism, the losses account for 840,000 jobs, which is slightly higher than our original projections for the same period. The longer the disruption, the great the job loss will be.
Tourism’s job losses were immediate, as companies faced liquidity issues, especially since the shock was instantaneous. Most of these job losses were with hourly wage earners, and it impacted all five industries that make up the tourism sector (F&B and Accommodations were the most affected).
With recent announcements on wage subsidies and the ongoing adjustments to the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), we can expect that some job recovery will occur. But lag and uncertainty about recovery time means that employers are also encouraging workers to seek the benefit while they try to stabilize their businesses. We expect that it will be upward of 24 months before employment stabilizes in the sector.
Due to the economic impact on people’s discretionary spending, the Conference Board does not expect spending on recreation/culture to return to normal until October 2021. Consumer spending on accommodation and food services will not likely return until December 2021 or early 2022.
We need to get businesses focused on workforce recovery initiatives. This is hard to do while they still grapple with liquidity, but it will be a growing concern. Recovery is dependent on the ability of companies to quickly gear up and adjust to the new reality. It’s about skills—first and foremost, ones that help employers to retool and train to focus on the domestic market, to rebuild financial reserves, and to develop new business models with lower overhead and increased margins. Workforce recovery is all about being a resilient workforce that is more versatile. The bottom line: investment in training and retention programs is essential. Evidence from past economic recovery events assert that the sooner investments are made in the training and retention of the workforce, the quicker the rebound. It a new business environment—one that requires improved resilience to fare future disruptions. People need to be retrained or upskilled to be prepared.
The CERB programs announced to date are great, but not enough to support the demands on recovery that will ultimately get people employed more rapidly and get the economy moving again. Speaking strictly from a workforce or labour perspective, we encourage the Government of Canada to act soon on funding to support training and helping businesses retool so they can successfully recover. The pre-election budget last year mentioned $1.7 billion over five years to create a tax credit and pay for dedicated time off for workers to take skills training. Perhaps this is worth revisiting.
Finally, the industry appreciates the great efforts that the Canadian government has undertaken to respond to the COVID crisis. We’d like to extend a special thank you for the great work by public servants, who have been exceptional in helping us respond the needs of tourism employers and other stakeholders.
A full recording of this Standing Committee on Finance meeting is available online: listen here.
The restrictions on international, domestic, and local travel are having a severe negative impact on Canadian tourism businesses and workers. Leading indicators of traveller volume show that the number of international visitors to Canada arriving by air fell 61% in March 2020 compared to March 2019 and the number of Americans crossing into Canada at land borders fell 60%.1
In addition to essentially non-existent tourism, the global event dubbed “the Great Lockdown” by the International Monetary Fund has shuttered many tourism businesses and severely limited local demand for those that remain open. Weekly surveys of tourism businesses by industry associations across Canada have shown that up to half of their members are closed, while seasonal businesses have delayed opening. Many have laid off a large percentage of their staff, and their responses suggest that the effect of COVID-19 is running ahead of the ability of official statistics to track unemployment.
The data in the most recent Labour Force Survey (LFS) was collected the week of March 15 to 21. That week, most provinces were in the process of restricting the types of businesses—such as dine-in restaurants—that could be open. Although restrictions such as limiting restaurant capacity to 50% had been put in place earlier by some municipalities, LFS data collected that week would only have captured some of the impact, as a full lockdown across the entire country was not yet in place.
Despite this, the March data offers insights into how large the effect on the tourism sector will become in the months ahead.
There were over one million fewer Canadians employed in March than there were just one month prior. The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate jumped 2.2 percentage points to 7.8%. However, these topline numbers are only part of the story as it pertains to the tourism sector.
Tourism HR Canada’s customized Labour Force Survey data shows the full impact on the tourism sector, relative to the overall economy. To do this, we rely on seasonally unadjusted data. The remainder of this article uses this seasonally unadjusted data and therefore some data points may differ from those reported elsewhere. For example, while the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for March was 7.8%, the unadjusted unemployment rate was 8.4%.
Using this data, the number of employed Canadians dropped by 1,060,500 individuals from February to March. Almost half of that decrease (448,600) was in the tourism sector. There were 167,100 fewer full-time and 281,400 fewer part-time workers employed in tourism-related jobs. These represent drops of -13.9% in full-time tourism employment and -33.7% in part-time.
The largest employment drop occurred in the food and beverage services industry; it had 242,900 fewer people employed in March than in February (see Figure 1). As the food and beverage services industry has the largest labour force of all the tourism industry groups, it is not surprising that the largest drop in employment occurred here. To account for the size of each industry group’s labour force, we can examine the percentage decrease in employment between February and March. By this measure, food and beverage services (-25.2%) was only slightly more affected than the recreation and entertainment (-23.9%) and the accommodations (-21.0%) industry groups in terms of the share of employment shed.
The drop in tourism employment was severe across all provinces. The greatest drops were seen in Ontario, Quebec, and British Columbia, reflecting the size of their population and labour force (see Figure 2). When comparing the employment drops as a percentage of February employment levels, the largest impacts are seen in Alberta (-28.5%), Prince Edward Island (-25.0%), and Ontario (-23.5%). There were small drops in employment from February to March in 2019 as well, reflecting the fact that March is generally a yearly low point for tourism employment; however, these yearly reductions in employment are negligible compared to 2020 (see Figure 3).
Tourism Unemployment Rate
The monthly unemployment rate also illustrates how quickly tourism’s employment landscape has changed. The overall seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate for Canada jumped from 5.9% to 8.4%. The tourism unemployment rate, which has been lower than the overall unemployment rate since 2008 surged from 5.7% to 15.8%. To illustrate the suddenness of this change, during the 2008-09 recession, it took the tourism unemployment rate eight months to rise from its pre-recession low of 5.3% (September 2008) to its height of 8.9% (see Figure 4).
All tourism industry groups have reported higher unemployment rates than the same month last year.
|Tourism Industry Group2||Unemployment Rate –
|Unemployment Rate –
|Food & Beverage Services||6.2%||18.5%|
|Recreation & Entertainment||7.7%||18.4%|
By province, the unemployment rate for March 2020 was greatest in PEI, at 22.7%, and lowest in Saskatchewan (albeit at 9.9%). In every province, the seasonally unadjusted unemployment rates for tourism were above the rates reported for the provincial economy (see Figure 5).
The tourism unemployment rates were also much higher in March 2020 than in March 2019, with the biggest unemployment jumps occurring in Quebec, which was 13.2 percentage points higher than the year prior, and New Brunswick, which was 10.9 percentage points higher than March 2019 (see Figure 6).
Another facet of this story is that Canadians are only counted as unemployed if they are actively seeking another job. While the number of Canadians employed in tourism fell by 448,600 in March, the number who were considered “unemployed” only increased by 175,200 (albeit a 142% increase from the number of individuals considered unemployed in February).
This shows that under the current labour market circumstances, many have made the decision that actively looking for work is untenable. Many may also be waiting for their employer to reopen so they can be rehired rather than seek work elsewhere. The unemployment rate is part of the story, but a lagging indicator because of the suddenness of job losses and the unique circumstances of the current labour market. The unemployment rate will only fully tell the story once restrictions on which businesses can be open are lifted and Canadians start to actively look for work again.
Hours Worked in March
The reduction in employment and increase in unemployment rates also does not capture the slowdown in the amount of work that is occurring in the tourism sector. As of March 21, many tourism employees were still working but with reduced hours.
Data on hours worked for the tourism sector as a whole is not available, but data from the accommodation and food services sector and the information, culture, and recreation sector provide a good proxy for tourism (see Figure 7). As a percent, those two sectors saw the greatest monthly reduction in hours worked except for educational services, which was also impacted by the March Break. In February 2020, workers in accommodation and food services worked a total of over 31 million hours. In March, this dropped to just over 17 million hours, a decrease of -44.4%. The number of hours worked in the information, culture, and recreation sector decreased -32.2%.3
It is not uncommon for there to be a small decrease in hours worked during March, particularly for tourism-related industries. However, the scale of the decrease in hours compared to 2019 clearly shows the effect across a range of industries, with tourism standing out for the scale of its decrease.
While March is a low point in the tourism sector for both employment and hours of work, both usually start to increase at this time of year. Over 30% of the tourism workforce is filled by young people aged 15 to 24, many of whom look for part-year work for the summer. Using the accommodation and food services sector as an example, we can see that even during the years of the economic recession, the total number of actual hours worked by employees increased significantly starting in April or May. By comparing the total number of actual hours worked for the years 2007 through 2009, as well as last year (2019), when Canada received a record number of visitors, the effect on hours worked becomes clear (see Figure 8).4
In most years, the increase in hours is accompanied by increased hiring of workers. Businesses that are open year-round see increases in demand and seasonal businesses open up for the summer season. A recent national survey of tourism businesses conducted by Tourism HR Canada showed that about 11% of tourism businesses are only open for part of the year.
Regardless of whether they are open part-year or full-year, most tourism operators see their highest level of demand in the summer.
The spike in hiring that goes along with this seasonal spike in demand is under threat this year. Tourism employment usually peaks in July or August. The average increase in employment from the monthly low to monthly high for the years 2013 to 2019 was 217,000. Last year, 230,600 jobs were added between March and July. Not only does tourism add over 200,000 people to its workforce each year, the number of part-time workers drops, while the number of full-time workers increases as year-round workers shift from part-time to full-time hours. With local lockdowns still in place until at least the beginning of May and domestic and international travel likely to be restricted until much later, this hiring will not occur.
The March Labour Force Survey only shows us the beginning of COVID-19’s effect on tourism sector employment. The full impact in terms of lost employment will be shown by April’s Labour Force Survey, although thanks to government programs like the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy, some workers will have been rehired—such as the 20,000 individuals being rehired by Air Canada and WestJet. Actual hours worked will be a key indicator of demand levels, however, as some of these workers may be employed but working very few hours due to limited demand.
Some provinces may begin lifting restrictions starting in May. While it remains to be seen to what extent, the first tourism businesses able to begin recovering will be those drawing significant revenue from local sources, such as restaurants and recreation businesses. However, these businesses will still miss the spike from tourist demand over the summer months. Tourism businesses that rely heavily on demand from tourists, such as accommodation, transportation, and travel services, face longer-lasting impacts as they await the return of domestic and international travel.
1 Statistics Canada, Leading indicator of cross-border traveller volume, March 2020 Reports of entries and re-entries from offices of the Canada Border Services Agency & Leading indicator of international arrivals to Canada by air, first quarter 2020.
2 As defined by the Canadian Tourism Satellite Account. The NAICS industries included in the tourism sector are those that would cease to exist or operate at a significantly reduced level of activity as a direct result of an absence of tourism.
3 Statistics Canada. Table 14-10-0036-01 Actual hours worked by industry, monthly, unadjusted for seasonality (x 1,000).
4 Statistics Canada. Table 14-10-0036-01 Actual hours worked by industry, monthly, unadjusted for seasonality (x 1,000).
By Joe Baker (published by Canadian Lodging News)
You do not need another voice reminding you of the challenging times the hospitality and tourism industry is facing. There are enough of those voices out there. And I recognize as an educator I am writing from a place of privilege. I acknowledge that place of privilege and I am committed to using it for purposes of recovery. But not yet. We are not there yet. But we will be. Soon.
The hospitality and tourism education space across this country is in extremely difficult times as well. Our method of educating students for this great industry is as hands-on and applied as the industry itself – especially in my school. We are presently moving all of our programs on-line as our dedicated teams try to engage our learners from a distance. But those learners are not traditional by any sense. Most of our students are international students, and many of those we would classify as domestic are from new Canadian families, or from our local community in Scarborough who all face their own sets of challenges independent of the current pandemic. Many of our students are actively employed in this industry, because we encourage them to do so to gain experience and discover their future career paths. Those jobs have started to disappear too. And our students are struggling with the basic necessities – food, housing, health. And trying to stay focused on their studies. They are a source of inspiration to me. As are those of you who are fighting to get us through this crisis.
So what now? What do we do? Many industries will bounce back. But is bouncing back really enough? I believe we have the incredible opportunity ahead of us to in fact, leap forward. To use the extreme challenges we are facing to wrestle with some very significant issues that face our industry at the best of times. Conditions of employment in our workforce. Conditions of the business model of our operators and the razor thin margins that make us so vulnerable now. Make no mistake, this is a critical moment in the history of our industry. And it’s one we can make count.
In spite of the hardships around us all, I have never before seen the kinds of unity I am seeing now. The industry associations are working together to lobby government for support. The governments are working together to lift our industry as best they can. The messages are crystal clear – the tourism industry is vital to the Canadian economy. Vital to the 1.87 million people who rely on it for gainful employment. There was a time our industry was accused of being splintered. Of not sharing a collective voice with the needs of the many ahead of the needs of the few. We are, for the first time I can recall, speaking the same language.
We are standing together, fighting for the virtue of the tourism industry itself. Fighting to support the workers, the businesses, the communities. We are representing the tourism industry with pride and passion and togetherness. This is our moment. This is our opportunity. To transform from an industry focused on competition to an industry focused on collaboration. Some experts are warning of the risk that the service workers of our industry will be scared off and not return, putting even more pressure on operators who were facing an acute labour shortage. I don’t buy into this. I don’t believe it. I believe we are about to create Canadian Tourism 2.0. A better version of something that was already world-calibre.
So in the moments of quiet reflection. In the moments of deep clarity. In the moments of darkness, I encourage you to focus on the present moment. Before you move forward. Try as hard as you can to project your mind towards the future outcome you wish to create for yourself, for your business and for your industry. What is it you want to see in Tourism 2.0? And most importantly, who can you rely on for co-creation. If you’re looking for an ally, count me in. For the foreseeable future you can find me on Zoom. But when the fog lifts you can find me back where I started. In the hospitality and tourism industry. Shouting from the rooftops that this is a great place to pursue careers. We will emerge stronger, wiser and ever with our sense of adventure and service to others. We will persevere. And we will leap forward. Together. Tourism 2.0 is calling. Let’s answer that call together.
Joe Baker is dean, School of Hospitality, Tourism and Culinary Arts, Centennial College, Toronto. He is also on the Board of Directors of Tourism HR Canada.