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On March 7th and 8th, Tourism HR Canada hosted its annual Labour Market Forum, with over 60 representatives from government, business, education, and national, provincial and regional tourism industry associations. The two-day event provided an opportunity to discuss labour market issues for all those with a stake in growing Canada’s tourism sector.

Participants shared ideas and experiences, providing feedback on a range of topics.

The group examined the labour market crisis and discussed how to increase the supply of labour by optimizing immigrant pathways and increasing labour market participation by newcomers, refugees, and international students. In-depth discussions focused on the role for the Temporary Foreign Worker Program in addressing sectoral needs.

Participants also explored how to:

  • meet the increasing demands that will come from meeting Canada’s Tourism Vision;
  • improve the perception of tourism as a place of work by adjusting the employment value proposition;
  • develop regional and pan-Canadian workforce development plans; and
  • create ways to diversify the tourism workforce.

Brent Taylor of Archan Consulting provided a presentation on the early effects of minimum wage increases on independent restaurants in Ottawa, and Eropa Stein of Hyre discussed her company’s online platform that directly connects event staff with event organizers.

2018 is the Canada-China Year of Tourism. Employees at tourism businesses must be equipped to welcome the steadily growing influx of Chinese tourists. Forum participants considered how to get our people market ready, identifying the skills frontline workers and managers need to serve this market.

Tourism HR Canada will prepare a summary with recommendations that build on key thematic outcomes. Participants voiced the need for meaningful policy discussions to address the persistent and critical shortage of skilled labour, which has had a profound economic and social impact on the tourism sector. More work is needed to reinforce tourism’s ‘value proposition’ beyond economic benefits—the importance of the sector’s contribution to social cohesion and the promotion of multiculturalism, Canadian identity, and environmental preservation. Another identified priority was the need for continued and improved coordination on labour market research and analysis. Perhaps most palpable was the appreciation that significant investments are needed to better engage Indigenous populations and to strengthen or develop Indigenous business and entrepreneurial initiatives that will lead to economic and social benefits for Indigenous people, both as operators and employees.

The collected insights of the participants will be analysed and turned into a plan to mitigate the labour crisis.

Tourism HR Canada would like to thank everyone who was involved in the forum. We hope you enjoyed and benefitted from the two days spent with colleagues from across the country, discussing solutions for the tourism sector’s labour market issues. Look for more from us as we work with the provided feedback—subscribe to Tourism HR Insider to receive updates directly to your inbox.

With recreational-use cannabis on track to be legalized across Canada in 2018, some areas of the country expect to see a rise in the number of international visitors. The coffee shops of the Netherlands have long drawn tourists to the country, and more recently the legalization of cannabis in Colorado has boosted tourism and created jobs. Some regions of Canada, such as Niagara Falls and Windsor, Ontario, are predicting an influx of American visitors. Others may see limited tourism growth, particularly those that border a state where cannabis is already legalized, but local spending at bars and eateries could see an increase.

From entrepreneurs to big business, many are awaiting final legislation to determine whether there is opportunity to tap into this new market. The main question: where cannabis can be consumed. This will establish whether pot cafés and lounges can open and under what conditions. Hotels and restaurants will need clarity on whether edibles can be consumed on site and whether owners can designate some rooms or areas, such as patios, for smoking or vaping. Recreational areas and campgrounds will also need to know what’s legal. Tour companies will need guidelines on offering tours to cannabis plants, just like breweries or wineries. The potential for investment in tourism and hospitality jobs is huge, but will remain on hold for now.

Until more is known, established tourism and hospitality businesses’ best investment will be training staff to handle guests under the influence, much as they do with responsible alcohol service.

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Emotional support animals have garnered international press coverage in recent weeks. First, United Airlines denied one woman’s request to fly with her peacock. Then, another woman reported to the Miami Herald that not only was she unable to bring her hamster on board a flight, an airline representative, upon hearing she would be unable to get the animal home, suggested she leave the animal outdoors or flush it down the toilet…and she claims to have chosen the second option.

The Toronto Star reports that these requests have increased exponentially in past years. It also states that while there is clear legislation regarding service animals (such as guide dog for the visually impaired), for support animals, airlines are subject to a broadly worded act in which a passenger may travel with any animal which helps them feel at ease. Paperwork is required, but it appears this can be easily obtained—or forged.

Whatever your initial reaction to such stories, consider the frontline staff, supervisors, and managers trying to handle these requests. It’s the stuff of customer service and public relations nightmares: any misstep—legitimate or perceived—will result in public scrutiny. Mental health and guest accommodation are important and timely topics, and businesses should do all they can to help their clients feel welcome and at ease. But these requests impact other passengers’ welfare, not to mention the health and safety of the staff. Allergies, fear of animals, and the possibility of an animal reacting badly to being in a confined space must be considered.

What’s clear is more explicit regulations are needed, so staff can be trained to provide the best service to all involved. This should not be limited to airlines, either. Managers at hotels, restaurants, tour companies, travel agencies, and other transportation companies should ensure there are clear policies on what’s permissible and how to handle such requests, and train all staff on them…before the fur flies.

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Tourism HR Canada is pleased to announce it has received funding for several exciting labour market research initiatives over the next three years.

Thanks to the generosity of Employment and Social Development Canada’s Sectoral Initiatives Program, Tourism HR Canada will undertake the research necessary to help minimize labour and skills imbalances and shortages, and ensure the tourism sector remains globally competitive and innovative.

Tourism HR Canada’s research project contains seven specific initiatives:

  1. Produce principal statistics on the tourism sector’s labour force using sources such as the labour force survey and census.
  2. Host an annual labour market forum that consults with tourism industry stakeholders over two days. Participants will work together to discuss current and emerging issues and formulate solutions and recommendations.
  3. Conduct a survey of salaries, wages, and benefits offered to tourism employees. This study will provide employers with detailed compensation data by occupation.
  4. Update our forecast of future labour demand in the tourism sector as well as any resulting job shortages.
  5. Update the Provincial-Territorial Human Resource Module, a foundational dataset on the tourism labour market. This update will take advantage of Statistics Canada’s receipt of funding to update the Provincial-Territorial Tourism Satellite Account
  6. Conduct five to eight industry or regional studies that inform strategies for addressing systemic tourism workforce issues. Tourism HR Canada is seeking input from our partners and stakeholders on the specific subjects to be studied, and will look to leverage other projects and funding to expand these studies where needed.
  7. Increase our research capacity to better meet our partners’ and stakeholders’ needs for reliable, timely, and accurate labour market information.

In 2017, Canada welcomed 20.8 million international visitors, the highest number ever. As tourism becomes a greater part of this country’s economic makeup, a targeted skills and workforce development strategy will be crucial. Businesses, industry associations, governments, and the education sector need improved workforce planning strategies. This labour market research project will lead to increased knowledge and understanding of the economic and social importance of Canada’s tourism sector, allowing businesses, industry, and governments to make informed planning and policy decisions regarding the future of tourism.

This research is a key pillar of our work to make tourism a destination for employment and ensure the sector reaches its full potential.

Research Agenda 2017—2020

For more information, contact Calum MacDonald, Vice-President, Labour Market Intelligence:

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In 2016, the government of Canada set a 2017 immigration intake target of 300,000; on November 1st, 2017, it announced even higher targets for 2018-2020. These will see the yearly intake of immigrants rise to 0.9% of the Canadian population by 2020. Tourism HR Canada’s original projections for tourism job shortages used the historical intake of immigrants—around 0.8% of the population.

We know that many jobs have gone unfilled since those projections were made1. Businesses have reduced hours, hotels have taken rooms out of circulation, and—in extreme circumstances—businesses have temporarily closed due to a lack of workers. Under these conditions, the sector has had difficulty expanding. The tight labour market limited revenue and prevented jobs that could exist from being created.

We cannot undo the past, but we can look forward. Our original modelling projected 145,400 jobs going unfilled from 2018 to 2035. With immigration increased to 0.9% of the population, we expect about 85,000 of those jobs to be filled—this is beneficial, but still leaves a 60,000-job shortfall2.

This estimation of the new immigration targets’ effects looks solely at the supply side (people available to fill jobs). It does not account for the fact that that these new Canadians will themselves increase demand for tourism goods and services, nor does it consider the government’s new Tourism Vision. Independent modelling of the vision’s targets estimates that increasing international overnight visitors by 30 per cent by 2021 will require 17,700 additional jobs, while making Canada a top 10 international destination by 2025 will require 64,600 additional jobs.

It also does not consider the secondary steps that must be taken to prepare new immigrants for work in sustainable, well-paid, long-term jobs. Newcomers may need opportunities to learn or augment skills to help them thrive in Canada. Particularly for refugees (of whom there could be 53,200 in 2020), skills and second-language training can help newcomers work and succeed in service-oriented industries that otherwise have low barriers to entry.

A full update of Tourism HR Canada’s labour projections—including all factors affecting the current labour market—will occur in 2018/19.

Impact of Increased Immigration on Workforce Shortages in Tourism

1 Original projections were for 240,000 unfilled jobs between 2010 and 2035.

2 Assumes new 2018-2020 immigration targets are maintained out to 2035.

In June 2017, Tourism HR Canada (THRC) restructured its Board and governance model, creating an Advisory Council—a separate body to provide guidance on hot-button issues and other relevant initiatives facing the tourism sector nationally. Core to the Advisory Council’s mandate: facilitate, coordinate, and enable discussion on tourism labour market issues. This newly formed Council will reflect and represent the diverse views and nature of the tourism labour market in Canada.

Tourism HR Canada is looking to grow representation on this Advisory Council (AC). Members will provide insight and progressive dialogue on a host of key issues facing Canada’s tourism sector. There are numerous important projects expected to be initiated over the coming year, including the launch of three years of labour market information/research initiatives. The Advisory Council is the best place to have your voice heard and help shape the direction of labour market developments taking place.

The amount of time and energy any member of the AC will spend on Council-related activities is completely up to the individual. The Council was constructed to be flexible, allowing its size to expand and contract dependent on the scale and number of labour market issues the body is addressing. Members can participate in any topic of importance to them, but there is no expectation for members to participate in any activity they feel is not in their strategic interest.

THRC is looking for tourism champions who have a passion for the sector and want to spearhead initiatives that drive Canada’s tourism labour market engagement and offer a greater understanding of tourism’s economic impact. Interested applicants should email Jon Kiely, Vice-President of Product Innovation and Communications, at He will supply the terms of reference and answer any questions about the activities of Advisory Council.

(seasonally unadjusted)

In January 2018, the unemployment rate1 in the tourism sector was 5.6%, which is 0.5 percentage points lower than the rate reported in January 2017, and higher than the previous month (December 2017), when the unemployment rate stood at 5.0%.

At 5.6%, tourism’s unemployment rate was well below Canada’s seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate of 6.2%.

With the exception of the Recreation & Entertainment industry, all tourism industry groups have reported lower unemployment rates than the same month last year (Table 1).

On a provincial basis, tourism unemployment rates ranged from 3.8% in Manitoba to 19.8% in Prince Edward Island.

The seasonally unadjusted unemployment rates for tourism in each, with the exception of Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick, were below the rates reported for the provincial economy (Figure 1).

Tourism employment comprised 11.1% of the total Canadian labour force for the month.

Table 1 – Employment Rate by Tourism Industry Group – January 2017/2018
Tourism Industry Group2 Unemployment Rate –
January 2017
Unemployment Rate –
January 2018
Tourism 6.1% 5.6%
Accommodations 8.8% 8.0%
Food and Beverage 5.6% 5.3%
Recreation and Entertainment 7.4% 7.9%
Transportation 4.2% 2.3%
Travel Services 8.6% 4.0%
Figure 1 – Tourism Sector vs. Total Labour Force Unemployment Rates by Province (Seasonally Unadjusted)

1 To determine unemployment rates, industrial (NAICS) classifications are based on the most recent job held within the past year, and are self-identified by the respondent. Unemployed persons are those who, during the reference period, were available for work but were on temporary layoff, were without work, or were to start a new job within four weeks.

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. Source: Statistics Canada Labour Force Survey, customized tabulations. Based on data for the week ending January 20, 2018.

Tourism HR Canada is predicting a summer with a high demand for tourism, but also one that will be fraught with labour difficulties for tourism operators.

In the final month of 2017, Canada’s jobless rate added 79,000 positions and sank to its lowest level in four decades. At 5.7%, the unemployment rate is now below the level that is considered full employment.

As reported by the Globe and Mail, a difficult year is expected for employers. In a strong job market, employers have to make extra efforts to retain their existing staff, who will be afforded plenty of opportunities for greener pastures.

Tourism operators should expect to see particular difficulty this year, notably during the summer months. Our Canadian Tourism Employment Snapshot for December showed that tourism unemployment stood at 5.0%, down from 6.5% in December 2016. Readers should note our labour force data shows seasonally unadjusted rates, while the commonly reported rate of 5.7% for the whole economy is the seasonally adjusted rate.1

What is most concerning: the tourism sector’s unemployment rate fluctuates over the year. Below is the monthly trend line for tourism unemployment for the last decade. In 2017, the rate bottomed out at 4.4% in July and 4.8% in August—making summer, peak tourist season in most areas of the country, the most difficult time to find staff.

Figure 1 –Tourism Unemployment Rate 2006 to 2017

Tourism’s annual unemployment rate has also trended lower than that of the overall economy for the better part of last decade, as displayed here.

Figure 2 –Seasonally Unadjusted Unemployment Rate

We have already seen how labour shortages negatively impact tourism operators. There have been reduced business hours, hotel rooms taken out of circulation, and—in extreme circumstances—temporary closures due to a lack of workers.

Compounding the issue, this could be another record year for tourism in Canada. In 2016, Canada welcomed 20 million international visitors, the highest number since 2002. The celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday, combined with a low dollar and greater international recognition of Canada as a leader on the world stage, led to continued growth in 2017. This year is the Canada-China Year of Tourism, which will continue to drive international tourists to Canada.

On the business front, this is great news, but the labour situation may truly put the screws to business operators as they struggle to find the staff needed to meet demand. This, in turn, could hurt tourism’s economic impact and our reputation as a tourism destination, as travellers are potentially met with closed doors, lower levels of service, and a less rich experience than we could provide with a full complement of well qualified tourism professionals.

1 Seasonally adjusted data removes regular annual events, such as holidays, climate, and vacation periods, that affect employment. It is not available for the tourism sector. Using seasonally unadjusted numbers allows comparisons between the tourism sector and the overall economy.

This March, Tourism HR Canada will host tourism and hospitality stakeholders from across Canada, seeking their input, ideas and strategic advice on current and emerging labour market issues. Made possible by funding from Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC), associations, employers, academia, and government representatives will have frank discussions on urgent labour market issues and recommend actions to address the issues.

Discussion will centre on:

  • Optimizing immigrant pathways: temporary foreign worker program; increasing participation of newcomers, refugees, and international students
  • Exploring seasonal work and regional workforce development plans
  • Overcoming cringe-worthy media that contributes to a poor image of the sector, to showcase meaningful jobs and tourism’s contribution to Canada’s social well-being
  • Responding to Canada’s tourism vision by mitigating skills gaps and the shortfall of labour
  • Building strategies to integrate globalization, diversity, and technology

The collective input of will lead to recommendations on HR strategies and solutions that can be applied industry-wide. Key directions from the first Forum include:

  1. Improve investments by government and employers: go beyond infrastructure and marketing, towards workforce planning, detailed studies, and coordination.
  2. Boost productivity: increase incentives and smart funding to enable employers to invest in training, skills development, and improved human capital practices.
  3. Further diversify the tourism workforce: increase the participation of under-represented groups—in particular, Indigenous peoples, refugees, and immigrants.
  4. Increase immigration and improve mobility: foster favourable immigration policies that support the talent supply required by tourism; increase flexibility and improve efficiency.
  5. Transform education and training programs: ensure programs are a better fit to employment needs, are more responsive to demand, and develop broad-based skills as well as product development and managerial skills.

With pan-Canadian representation from accommodations, food and beverage, travel services, transportation, and recreation and entertainment, the session will highlight both the differences and commonalities stakeholders face in sustaining Canada as a world class tourism destination, leading to a cohesive, encompassing set of priorities and messaging. The diversity of the attendees’ experience and expertise in the tourism and hospitality industry and with its labour market will be invaluable to the event’s success. This year’s outcomes will feature in a later edition of Tourism HR Insider.

Throughout 2018, Tourism HR Insider will feature Tourism HR Canada milestones in creating products, programs and services for the tourism workforce in Canada. We’re identifying these milestones not simply as a nostalgic gesture, but more importantly to demonstrate how the organization has been on the cutting edge of labour market issues from its inception 25 years ago. Many of these milestones have substantial impact today—and will into the future.

Tourism HR Canada (formerly the Canadian Tourism Human Resource Council) came into existence in 1993. Its mandate: to address broad labour market issues, including improving the image of working in tourism, attracting qualified applicants to the sector, collecting and disseminating labour market research and data, recognizing prior learning, and benchmarking training through competency standards.

By 1993, many occupational standards had been created at a provincial level by leveraging funding through provincial governments or regionally-focused initiatives like Western Diversification. Standards documents had been created in nearly all provinces for different occupations, but there was not consistency from one jurisdiction to the next.

Over the next three years, THRC was well funded to hold consultation events and work with industry, education, labour, and government to update and ratify the existing standards and bring them to a national audience through the newly formed Council. In creating this first batch of National Occupational Standards, a national benchmark was created—one that could be used by employers, employees, career counsellors, job seekers, educators, and students to clearly understand what skills and knowledge were imperative to performing at a competent professional level, anywhere in the country, for occupations ranging from Front Desk Agent to Housekeeping Room Attendant to Entry Level Cook.

The process used to update and ratify occupational standards, and in creating new ones, was and remains unique in that the level of involvement of those working in the occupation is paramount. Our competency standards are frequently described as “for industry, by industry”.

National Occupational Standards (NOS) are the foundation of all occupational learning and professional certification programs offered under the national Emerit brand. Our work on these competency-based standards predates current interest in the value of competency-based training by two decades—testament to the collective vision of the organization’s board of directors. Because of this early work, THRC has had the opportunity to lead the development of international standards, and recently completed the development of Competency Frameworks for the food processing sector and international trade sector in Canada.

Being a world leader in the development of competency-based standards is a key milestone tied to the creation of the Council, and it continues to be a key pillar in everything Tourism HR Canada undertakes on behalf of the sector.