Author: Tourism HR Canada

Canadian Tourism Awards Ian Cheverie and Presenters
(L to R) MP Wayne Easter, MP Gudie Hutchings, MP Alaina Lockhart, Ian Cheverie, Charlotte Bell (TIAC), Dave McKenna (TIAC Board), Philip Mondor (Tourism HR Canada) [Photo credit: Tourism Industry Association of Canada (TIAC)]
Tourism HR Canada is delighted to honour Ian Cheverie, Guest Experience Manager & Concierge at The Great George Hotel in Charlottetown, PEI.

Ian accepted the Tourism Employee of the Year Award at the Tourism Industry Association of Canada’s Tourism Congress. The award recognizes a frontline professional whose leadership, dedication, and high quality of service exemplify excellence in the tourism industry.

Ian joined the team at The Great George eight years ago, working in an entry-level guest service position. After earning promotions to front desk and then sales assistant, Ian’s initiative and passion for crafting the perfect guest experience led to the creation of his own guest services department, which has blossomed into a team of seven.

“I feel truly blessed to be part of an industry that celebrates the best qualities of our regions, as well as our industry leaders that live and breathe tourism,” says Ian. “The overwhelming support and encouragement from my entire province since my return from The Canadian Tourism Awards with this recognition from Tourism HR Canada is a statement to our strong sense of community—we are all celebrating here in Prince Edward Island! Receiving this prestigious award was an evening I will never forget, and I now look forward to taking our guest experience to the next level when it comes to sharing my pride and passion for what I do, where I work, and where I live.”

Ian’s commitment to hospitality is evident in all he does—he continually strives to create an unmatched guest experience, even using his free time to gain a deeper knowledge of tourism across the province. Guests frequently request his personally vetted island tour itineraries and join his popular Historical Walking Tour. He has implemented numerous programs to make each guest’s stay memorable and unique and spends time getting to know each guest to ensure their next stay is further tailored to their likes and interests. Guests regularly send notes of thanks and mention Ian in online reviews.

The Great George team is inspired daily by his enthusiasm. Ian developed a half-day Guest Experience training program for new employees, sharing aspects of the hotel and the broader industry in PEI. A quarterly employee newsletter, Checking In with Ian, keeps the team apprised of new initiatives, upcoming guests, and key happenings at the hotel and within the region. His recent The Great George Values Card is part of each hotel team member’s uniform—it guides them in their daily interactions, putting the hotel’s values into action statements.

Ian is the only Les Clefs d’Or concierge in PEI, a process that takes two years of ongoing training and testing to complete, and is nationally certified through Emerit as a Guest Services Attendant. He has won awards from the Murphy Hospitality Group and the Tourism Industry Association of PEI.

“Ian goes above and beyond every day to deliver memorable experiences for our guests and he challenges and inspires every one of our team members to do the same,” says Megan Hunt, The Great George Hotel general manager. “With his passion for our hotel, the tourism industry as a whole, and our beautiful province of PEI, Ian connects with our guests in a way that truly exemplifies the genuine Island hospitality that has become the trademark of our guest experience. You can literally feel the difference when Ian is on property—his energy and enthusiasm is unmatched. A perfect example of what happens when you invest in young people in this industry, we are truly lucky to work alongside such an outstanding professional.”

Ian’s enthusiasm for working in tourism in catching—frontline staff at The Great George aspire to his position, and he discusses industry career options with tourism and hospitality students at Holland College in PEI and Oulton College in New Brunswick.

Professionals with Ian’s desire to consistently go above and beyond are what make Canada a global tourism destination. His passion for the ultimate guest experience is a shining example of the more than 1.8 million individuals working in tourism and hospitality, daily creating incredible memories for visitors from around the world. Congratulations, Ian!

For more tourism success stories, subscribe to Tourism HR Insider.

Destination Employment LogoTourism HR Canada is actively recruiting members for our Destination Employment advisory committee. We are seeking individuals from a range of backgrounds and locations who bring real world experience and ideas on how to innovate HR interventions for newcomers to Canada.

This could be your opportunity to help shape program and product development that is integral to an overall strategy to facilitate the growth projected in recent tourism research: provide employment opportunities and support businesses in finding the right individuals.

The Destination Employment pilot program was developed to offer work opportunities to newcomers to Canada while addressing current and projected labour shortages facing the accommodations sector. The project is a key national strategic initiative that will require input and oversight over the next three years.

Now is the best time to get engaged and lend your voice, expertise, and opinions to the activities and resources being leveraged for this initiative. We’re seeking additional input from:

  • Hospitality professionals (frontline, supervisory, and management/executive)
  • Representatives from immigrant serving agencies and other community groups
  • Representatives from associations serving the accommodations sector (industry and professional associations/bodies)
  • Training and service providers (educators, trainers, and researchers)

Commitment to the advisory committee can be as little or as much as your schedule and level of interest allow. Members are invited to meet in person in Ottawa in early March (potential travel subsidies are currently being sought), and there will be quarterly conference calls and bi-monthly written updates.

To accommodate members who can only participate short term, we are recruiting a large committee to ensure engagement from all stakeholder groups throughout the pilot.

If you have a voice and perspective that can assist us in making Destination Employment an unmitigated success…let’s hear from you! Please contact

The recent growth of tourism activity in Canada has attracted a renewed focus on the sector by various stakeholders, including government. Despite this renewed focus, tourism businesses continue to struggle with a range of issues that require attention.

To determine the extent of these issues, Tourism HR Canada and The Conference Board of Canada are undertaking a Tourism Outlook and Labour Issues Survey—part of a wider tourism labour supply and demand study. The study will highlight the most significant issues facing tourism businesses today and into the future and quantify the degree to which labour issues have already impacted the sector—and will continue to do so.

Your answers will allow us to highlight those issues that not only impact your competitiveness but also cause the sector to underperform relative to its true potential.

We invite tourism businesses to participate in the Tourism Outlook and Labour Issues Survey. It will only take about ten minutes. Please click here to share your perspective on tourism and labour issues.

To stay informed on the release of the survey results and the study, subscribe to Tourism HR Insider.

(seasonally unadjusted)

In November 2018, the unemployment rate1 in the tourism sector was at 4.5%, which is 0.6% lower than the rate reported in November 2017, and higher than the previous month (October 2018), when the unemployment rate stood at 4.3%.

At 4.5%, tourism’s unemployment rate was well below Canada’s seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate of 5.2%.

All tourism industry groups reported lower unemployment rates than the same month last year (Table 1).

On a provincial basis, tourism unemployment rates ranged from 1.7% in Alberta to 16.1% in Prince Edward Island.

The seasonally unadjusted unemployment rates for tourism in each province, with the exceptions of Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, and Quebec, were below the rates reported for the provincial economy (Figure 1).

Tourism employment comprised 11.2% of the total Canadian labour force for the month of November.

Table 1 – Employment Rate by Tourism Industry Group – November 2017/2018
Tourism Industry Group2 Unemployment Rate –
November 2017
Unemployment Rate –
November 2018
Tourism 5.2% 4.5%
Accommodations 8.3% 7.9%
Food and Beverage 5.4% 5.0%
Recreation and Entertainment 5.9% 4.6%
Transportation 2.0% 1.9%
Travel Services 4.1% 2.6%

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 November 10, 2018.

In recent years, the federal government has intensified Canada’s efforts to be a world-leading study destination. According to the Government of Canada’s International Education Strategy and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada’s (IRCC) Growing Canada’s Economic Future, international education plays an important role in the globalization of the Canadian economy, allowing it to thrive in a fast-changing and competitive environment. With a labour shortage impacting Canadian employers from all sectors, the strategy is part of a broader effort to attract global talent, create economic growth, and reach new international markets.

The International Education Strategy, adopted in 2014, set out a clear plan to recruit international students, including a goal to reach 450,000 international students by 2022. The Canadian Bureau of International Education (CBIE) reported that 2017 saw a 20 percent spike in the total number of international students in Canada—reaching 495,525 students and surpassing that goal four years early.

This spike is part of a larger trend of Canada becoming a destination of choice for international students. According to CBIE, between 2010 to 2017 there was a 119 percent increase in the number of international students in Canada.

With international students estimated by Global Affairs Canada to have had a direct economic impact of approximately $18.5 billion last year, international students offer clear economic advantages.

Another advantage? These students are viable candidates to fill labour shortages—both short- and long-term. Research indicates that international students are highly motivated to use education as a pathway to staying and working in Canada.

The 2018 IRCC Annual Report to Parliament noted over 332,000 international students were eligible to work on or off campus in 2017—more individuals than the Temporary Foreign Worker and International Mobility Program streams combined. Additionally, over 114,000 individuals held work permits under the Post-Graduation Work Permit Program.

Meanwhile, CBIE’s 2017 International Student Survey showed 51 percent of international students in Canada intend to apply for permanent residency after their studies.

Policies show governments recognize international students as an ideal immigration pathway for recruitment into Canada. The international study pathway offers powerful incentives: under Canadian rules, students can work part-time while studying; they automatically qualify for a work permit of up to three years upon graduating; and they are given preferred status through points if they apply to become permanent residents. The Express Entry system awards points to international students who completed their studies in Canada. Points are also awarded for job offers to eligible candidates already in Canada on work permits exempt from labour market impact assessments.

With a mix of Canadian and international education, a Canadian credential either achieved or underway, knowledge of multiple languages, and diverse cultural experiences—including within markets tourism businesses are targeting for growth—international students are an ideal fit for the global nature of tourism employment. China, India and Korea are the top source countries for long-term students, while Japan and Brazil are those for short-term students. Canada’s tourism sector must explore ways to inform international students of the multitude of employment and advancement opportunities, and motivate them to stay in these jobs in Canada.

Some areas for consideration:

  • Ensure students have the opportunity to gain work experience: IRCC’s 2015 International Student Program evaluation confirmed that providing work opportunities for international students is an important incentive. Destination countries are very competitive in trying to increase work opportunities for international students. Continuously examining Canada’s policies and postsecondary institutions’ co-op programs—and making needed adjustments—will keep us as a top destination for international students.
  • Support less populous areas: Major urban centres like Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver are top destinations for international students, but regions across the country are suffering from labour shortages; marketing the benefits of studying, living, and working in smaller cities and rural areas will help entice these students into other areas of Canada. Employers can advertise the unique workplace culture they can offer because of their location—some students may be looking specifically for an “authentic” Canadian experience outside of a major urban area.
  • Watch for overcapacity issues: Youth demographics have meant programs have been able to increase their international enrollments without needing to reduce their domestic intake. However, some regions will see the number of youth increase as early as 2020; institutions must strategically manage enrollment of lucrative international students and domestic entrants to avoid possible tensions.
  • Offer further training and career advancement: While some international students may be looking at a job in tourism as a means to finance tuition or living expenses (like many of their Canadian counterparts) it’s important to show them the career opportunities available by including them in job-shadowing or mentorship programs, in-house training, and management-track employee programs. While their work visas may limit their employment while they study, there are pathways for them to remain in Canada when their studies are complete, and tourism employers will be competing with other sectors to hire these graduates. Establishing an early connection is vital.
  • Create a welcoming and inclusive workplace: Many supports exist through community organizations to support employers who wish to hire newcomers to Canada. Connect with them for advice and resources to help attract and retain international students.

The Tourism HR Canada team participated in the Tourism Industry Association of Nova Scotia (TIANS) Tourism Summit, held at Halifax’s The Westin Nova Scotian from November 25 to 27.

This year’s event, under the theme Making the Connection, covered a range of key and emerging topics impacting tourism stakeholders. Among these: technological disruption, making tourism accessible to all, the new cannabis legislation, tourism and the environment, and the labour shortage.

Prior to the summit, Tourism HR Canada and the Nova Scotia Tourism Human Resource Council invited tourism businesses from across Atlantic Canada to an engaging, interactive session to discuss critical labour issues affecting regional economic development. Existing labour shortages are expected to worsen over the coming years and could be exacerbated if skills mismatches and employment gaps are not addressed. The session supported the development of a competency framework that looks to redress tourism’s skills and labour mismatches.

A competency framework contains all the skills and knowledge required to work in a sector and enables outputs of unique profiles. Tourism HR Canada is developing such a framework, called the Future Skills Framework, which will contain more than just current practice; it will set the standard for proficient practice, be forward looking, and include what will be needed to perform effectively in future. Building a framework relies on significant input from industry to identify the competency areas and skills needed to operate a tourism business today and in the future.

With forty people in attendance, stakeholders discussed emerging skills and HR issues and how to manage the fluctuations in labour needs caused by seasonality in the tourism sector. The three-hour discussion identified many themes, such as how to manage professionalism in an era with greater acceptance of individualism in terms of style of dress and/or body modification and at a time when we increasingly understand that we must be culturally aware of how actions we take for granted will be perceived by travellers from different cultures. Attendees also discussed the growing need to be an effective advocate for the industry, whether by supporting industry associations or speaking directly on behalf of the business community.

On the final day of the summit, Tourism HR Canada’s Vice-President, Labour Market Intelligence, participated in a panel: Help Wanted—Addressing Tourism’s Labour Crisis. Labour shortages are having a severe impact on tourism businesses’ ability to operate. The questions posed to the panel included how operators can take advantage of diverse labour pools, bridge Indigenous workers to tourism jobs, and use immigration programs to meet tourism needs.

The panel discussed the links between labour shortages and programs that could increase the availability of workers by helping to bring immigrants to Canada or helping individuals who require support to enter or re-enter the labour force. While these programs are designed to help mitigate labour shortages, attendees noted that businesses can find them difficult to mange, especially in rural areas, where the labour market is tapped out and fewer services are available. When people who want to work in the industry are all but non-existent, operators find it difficult to manage these types of programs.

At the same time, delegates noted the need to help connect people to the labour force, leading to discussion on Destination Employment, which will help newcomers gain meaningful employment in Canadian hotels. The program is coordinated by Tourism HR Canada and the Hotel Association of Canada and being delivered in Atlantic Canada by the Nova Scotia Human Resource Council. Destination Employment seeks to mitigate the concerns expressed by operators by providing pre-employment language training and skills training to newcomers while also providing mentorship training and support for the businesses. Dependant on results, the pilot could be rolled out to address labour issues in other regions or industries. Feedback and data collected during the pilot will ultimately help programs of this type effectively link employers and those seeking employment.

NBCC HospitalityTourism HR Canada congratulates New Brunswick Community College (NBCC) on achieving SMART + Accreditation for two programs: Hotel and Restaurant Operations and Hotel and Restaurant Management. Both tourism-related programs demonstrated they exceed industry standards as envisioned in the SMART accreditation program.

“We are delighted to recognize New Brunswick Community College for its dedication to offering innovative and collaborative programming that aligns with current industry needs,” stated Tourism HR Canada President and CEO Philip Mondor. “Programs such as NBCC’s foster adaptable and skilled tourism professionals who will ensure Canada remains a globally competitive tourism destination.”

To establish programs that reflect today’s tourism workplace, NBCC engaged in labour market analysis and industry consultation—which it continues to do to keep programming current. Instructors are engaged with the tourism sector through professional membership and professional development events.

“NBCC is pleased to receive SMART+ Premium accreditation from Tourism HR Canada for both our Hotel and Restaurant Operations and Hotel and Restaurant Management Programs,” said Catherine Black, NBCC Dean of Hospitality & Tourism. “This accreditation further demonstrates NBCC’s commitment to excellence to serve industry’s needs and is another way that we’re enriching the NBCC Advantage for our learners.”

The NBCC Hospitality and Tourism team (left to right): Mary Lynne Borsella, Nathalie Beers, Jason Blonde, Mitch Haskins, Blair Price, Kim Garron, Ted Asbridge

Hotel and Restaurant Operations is a one-year certificate program that covers the core and emerging skills and best practices required to succeed in hotels and foodservice operations. The two-year Hotel and Restaurant Management diploma program builds on these with an advanced look at finance and accounting, operations, sales and marketing, and HR. Both programs allow students to earn industry certificates, participate in industry events, and apply their skills in a real-world setting through a practicum.

This emphasis on practical experience extends to a Business Ventures course in which students from multiple faculties conceptualize, create, and run a food truck for a week. An Applied Research program offers students, industry professionals, and instructors use of college facilities to collaborate and create new tourism products or experiences.

NBCC has an extensive student services program and takes a holistic approach to ensuring that its programming is inclusive of different groups and needs.

The SMART Accreditation Program offers two levels of accreditation: SMART Program status for programs that meet a basic standard and a SMART + Premium Program status for programs exceeding the basic standard. The SMART Accreditation Program provides an opportunity for post-secondary public or private institutions and corporate training providers to demonstrate that their programming meets or exceeds industry standards, and offers benchmarks that tourism educators can use to assist them in continually improving their programs.

Learn more about SMART Accreditation

(seasonally unadjusted)

In October 2018, the unemployment rate1 in the tourism sector was at 4.3%, which is 0.4% lower than the rate reported in October 2017, and lower than the previous month (September 2018), when the unemployment rate stood at 4.7%.

At 4.3%, tourism’s unemployment rate was well below Canada’s seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate of 5.3%.

With the exception of the accommodations and transportation industries, all tourism industry groups reported lower unemployment rates than the same month last year (Table 1).

On a provincial basis, tourism unemployment rates ranged from 2.8% in Alberta to 12.2% in Prince Edward Island.

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

Tourism employment comprised 11.3% of the total Canadian labour force for the month of October.

Table 1 – Employment Rate by Tourism Industry Group – October 2017/2018
Tourism Industry Group2 Unemployment Rate –
October 2017
Unemployment Rate –
October 2018
Tourism 4.7% 4.3%
Accommodations 4.9% 7.4%
Food and Beverage 5.1% 4.9%
Recreation and Entertainment 5.9% 4.1%
Transportation 1.7% 2.0%
Travel Services 5.8% 3.1%

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 October 13, 2018.


Tourism HR Canada is extremely fortunate to have secured three multi-year funded projects that will allow us to continue our global leadership in labour market intelligence, competency development and training, and innovative initiatives to broaden and diversify the potential labour market for tourism.

These projects, funded by Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), are strategic initiatives that will build capacity and ensure the Canadian tourism sector has accurate and timely data and the professionals working in tourism jobs are able to access the most relevant and current training available anywhere.

The Tourism HR Canada team is currently developing working committees to assist in ensuring that these projects are driven by industry and other engaged stakeholders and that the resulting programming and resources developed are aligned with what the sector needs to improve its global competitiveness.

This is an initial call for involvement; over the coming months, we will continue to promote and advocate for widespread involvement on each of these initiatives.

Below is a short description of each project, who we’re looking to recruit as committee members, and what is expected of committee members. We have also included specific contact details for each project, should you want additional information.

Your involvement can be as flexible as you need. We are looking for broad, insightful, and strategic input from all committee members, but only to the extent that you have the time and opportunity to participate.

Destination EmploymentDestination Employment

The Project

A three-year initiative funded through IRCC focused on providing a labour market solution to the existing and projected accommodations sector labour shortages, and providing an opportunity for newcomers to Canada to get a foot in the door of an industry that is growing and provides opportunities in dozens of positions. Specific objectives include:

  • Employ 1,300 unemployed and underemployed newcomers in stable positions in the hotel industry
  • Provide support, guidance, and resources to ensure a fit between needs of the employer and the skills and abilities of the newcomer
  • Provide support, guidance, and resources to assist various stakeholders in the settlement services field to identify and place individuals in the program
  • Improve the human resources practices of employers in tourism’s accommodation sector to create “welcoming workplaces”
  • Increase newcomers’ knowledge about employment opportunities in tourism’s accommodation sector
  • Improve the workplace language skills (English or French) of the newcomer employees

Committee Needs

This committee needs to reflect the different project stakeholders. We require input and feedback from all perspectives to ensure continual improvement over the life of the project. Specifically, we’re looking to recruit:

  • Hospitality professionals (frontline, supervisor, manager, and executive roles all needed)
  • Representatives from immigrant serving organizations
  • Interested government officials (national, regional, local)
  • Representatives from associations serving the sector (provincial/territorial hotel associations, professional bodies)
  • Training /service providers (educators, researchers, trainers)

Projected Activities

  • Assist in guiding project activities
  • Exchange and share knowledge, ideas, and non-binding advice
  • Review plans, documents, and resources
  • Help identify additional project participants

To learn more or sign up, contact:

Future Skills FrameworkFuture Skills Framework Logo

The Project

Funded by ESDC, the Future Skills Framework is a pan-Canadian competency framework for the tourism sector and its five constituent industry groups:

  • Accommodation
  • Food and Beverage Services
  • Transportation
  • Outdoor Recreation/Guiding/Meetings and Events
  • Travel Services

The framework is a dynamic, comprehensive collection of competencies and essential employability and social skills that will build on the occupational standards that Tourism HR Canada has operated with for the past 25 years. The framework will be a library of easily updated competency elements that will define current and future skills. Specific objectives will focus on:

  • Addressing skills gap and mismatch concerns in the tourism sector
  • Skills forecasting
  • Improving education and training provision
  • Adapting employee skills to present or emerging trends
  • Improving credentials or qualifications comparison

Committee Needs

This committee needs to reflect the different project stakeholders. We require input and feedback from all perspectives to ensure continual improvement over the life of the project. Specifically, we’re looking to recruit:

  • Tourism professionals (frontline, supervisor, manager, and executive roles all needed)
  • Interested government officials (national, regional, local)
  • Representatives from associations serving the sector (provincial/territorial hotel associations, professional bodies)
  • Training /service providers (educators, researchers, trainers)
  • Representatives from organized labour

Projected Activities

  • Provide input on competency contents
  • Provide input towards competency framework design
  • Identify partners for potential collaboration
  • Provide directional guidance on the operation of the project, including recommended outputs
  • Act as a source of guidance, information, and support
  • Raise matters of concern
  • Act as ambassadors for the project
  • Validate and ratify project outputs

To learn more, contact:

To participate, click here.

Labour Market Intelligence/Research

The Project

Under this ESDC-funded project, Tourism HR Canada will develop a foundational labour market forecasting system that responds to the evolving workforce development challenges in the tourism sector. The seven specific initiatives are to:

  • Collect principal statistics on the 29 individual industries that make up the tourism sector to create an overall picture of the tourism labour force
  • Host annual forums, bringing together industry stakeholders to discuss priorities for the tourism labour force and create a yearly action plan against which to measure progress
  • Conduct a national salary and wage survey of tourism businesses
  • Identify occupations that could experience labour shortages due to skill mismatches or a lack of available workers
  • Update the Provincial-Territorial Human Resource Module (PTHRM)
  • Conduct new primary and secondary research at industry and regional levels to inform strategies for addressing systemic tourism workforce issues
  • Invest in technology that facilitates the collection and dissemination of information

Committee Needs

This committee is already in operation, but we are always looking for more people to contribute their expertise. This committee reflects those with a stake in the project’s outcomes. Specifically, we’re looking to recruit individuals from the following types of organizations:

  • Tourism businesses
  • Tourism industry associations
  • Government
  • Human resource organizations
  • Educational institutions
  • Tourism researchers

Projected Activities

  • Share existing labour market information from their own organizations and regions and share best practices
  • Identify partners for potential collaboration
  • Provide directional guidance to the operation of the project
  • Act as a source of guidance, information, and support
  • Raise matters of concern
  • Act as ambassadors for the project

 To learn more or sign up, contact:  

Indigenous tourism is a job creator and nation builder. It has distinct characteristics, with an emphasis on heritage and culture, and aims to improve social and economic circumstances. Market- and export-ready Indigenous tourism experiences are authentic; they aim to preserve and strengthen traditions, customs, and culture and to improve people’s understanding of Indigenous history.

Tourism HR Canada, in partnership with the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada, held an inaugural consultation session with Indigenous leaders and other key stakeholders on October 28 in Saskatoon, on Treaty 6 Territory and the homeland of the Métis. Co-facilitated by Trina Mathers-Simard, Executive Director, Aboriginal Experiences, and Philip Mondor, President and CEO, Tourism HR Canada, the event featured three accomplished Indigenous entrepreneurs who shared their stories. The speakers demonstrated the unique and diverse types of Indigenous tourism offerings.

The event is one of 30 sessions to be held over the next two to three years that will define the current landscape of labour needs while identifying future knowledge and skills required of tourism workers. This is the first comprehensive study of this type for the tourism sector in Canada; it will better position the sector to be globally competitive and responsive to growing markets. The project includes dedicated funding to define the unique skills and knowledge specific to Indigenous tourism, which will help ITAC, tourism businesses, and others demonstrate where training dollars must go; it will inform policies and programs and demonstrate the acute need and priority to fund an Indigenous Tourism Labour Market Strategy.

The first speaker was Kevin Eshkawkogan, CEO of the Indigenous Tourism Association of Ontario and past CEO of Great Spirit Trail, a tourism company comprising a hotel and conference centre on Manitoulin Island and the Sagamok region in Northeastern Ontario. The Great Spirit Trail offers nature-based and cultural tourism from an Aboriginal perspective, including adventures ranging from relaxing day trips and educational cultural workshops to wilderness eco-adventures via canoe and horseback.

Amongst many of the insights Kevin shared, he emphasized the foundational skills and knowledge required of a successful Indigenous tourism entrepreneur, including:

  • Good knowledge of money management and the essentials of accounting and finance
  • Developing and delivering products and services that uphold cultural integrity (and refer to guidelines set by the community that continue to be instrumental in informing good practice)
  • Product development, with extensive knowledge of developing products aligned with the market and that are scalable and sustainable
  • Ability to establish partnerships, engage the community, collaborate with other businesses and groups
  • Effective communications skills
  • Marketing knowledge
  • Knowledge of funders (i.e., where to get money) and regional support

And, Kevin underscored the need to invest in ongoing professional development and the continued pursuit of Indigenous knowledge.

The second speaker was Kylik Kisoun Taylor, owner and operator of Tundra North Tours, located in Inuvik, Northwest Territories. Tundra North Tours provides authentic Arctic experiences, connecting visitors with the land, cultures, and people of the north. Kylik believes that sharing his way of life and showcasing his culture is a way of preserving it, and that tourism creates jobs and a sustainable economy for Indigenous people throughout Canada, strengthening cultural bonds and an understanding of what it means to be Indigenous.

Kylik was passionate about his interest in fostering the development of more Indigenous tourism experiences. Core to his values and lifestyle, he spoke about the practical skills and knowledge that helped ensure success:

  • Development of a comprehensive business model and plan; one that demonstrated financial viability, but was founded on the preservation of cultural integrity
  • Social, cultural, and environmental skills combined with basic business skills
  • Ability to establish ‘buy-in’, i.e., engaging the community, partners, and other groups
  • Ability to educate customers—to transfer knowledge of customs, traditions, history

Kylik spoke in-depth on skills and knowledge for Indigenous businesses seeking to attract international markets, and the need for continued professional development and information seeking. The theme of mentoring came up frequently, as did meeting customer expectations. Known for his insightful one-liners, Kylik summed up his views by saying, “It’s all about aligning dreams”, which encapsulated the types of skills and knowledge required of an Indigenous entrepreneur, and the match to meeting visitor expectations.

The third speaker was Patricia Dunnett, General Manager, Metepenagiag Heritage Park (MHP), Metepenagiag Mi’kmaq Nation (Red Bank), New Brunswick. MHP is a state-of-the-art facility that celebrates Mi’kmaq culture through music, oral history, exhibits, trail tours of the traditional Mi’kmaq lands, and hands-on cultural activities. The park’s mandate is to preserve, protect, and promote two significant National Historic Sites, the Augustine Mound and the Oxbow, both ancient and historic sites of the Mi’kmaq, dating back more than 3,000 years.

In Patricia’s story, community and partnerships factored large. Patricia emphasized skills and knowledge that involved extensive community links, such as the ability to seek and develop meaningful partnerships, and to gain community support and engagement in product development. Like the previous two speakers, Patricia also noted the need for skills on communicating and educating visitors about culture, and skills on product development. Patricia emphasized the way this was achieved: establishing mentorships and additional learning opportunities, building trust, and being resilient and persistent—traits that reinforced the very values embodied by the Indigenous experience.

Although this article only hints at a sample of the knowledge and skills discussed, it illustrates the power of storytelling and the richness of experience. The stories also remind us of the vast potential and demand to grow the market—something that can only be achieved with an investment in education and training. A key outcome of the discussions was the agreement that a pan-Canadian Indigenous Tourism Labour Market Strategy is needed.

This event was the beginning of the journey to document the experiences of successful Indigenous tourism entrepreneurs. It highlighted that Indigenous tourism is largely about social entrepreneurship and consists not only of economic prosperity, but also includes collective cultural and social identity and wellbeing. Defining the skills and knowledge required is a complex undertaking, and there are unique lessons to learn from those who have created the path, and from elders and other stakeholders.

Connor Tenasco, an Indigenous youth, was asked to comment on his reflections of the discussions. He said, “It’s all about the building of respect and helping to enlighten and educate others on the culture and heritage.” He expressed the immense potential and opportunity of Indigenous tourism, and, beyond economic benefits, how it leads to job creation and self-determination.

To learn more about this project and future consultation sessions, check out the Future Skills Framework.