The global spread of tourism in the past decades has made it one of the fastest growing economic sectors in the world.

Tourism at a Glance

  • In 2000, there were 674 million tourism arrivals. By 2014, there were 1.1 billion, and by 2020, international tourism arrivals are expected to reach 1.4 billion.1
  • Domestic tourism (tourists exploring their own country) is also significant. In Canada, it accounts for about 80% of revenue derived from tourists.
  • Canada’s tourism sector is composed of five distinct but related industry groups: accommodation, food and beverage services, recreation and entertainment, transportation and travel services.
  • Businesses in these industries, such as restaurants and recreation facilities, serve both tourists and many local residents as well.

Tourism Labour Highlights

  • The 2016 census counted 1.8 million Canadians employed in the tourism sector—that’s 10.6% of all employed individuals in Canada. There were 721,600 jobs in Canada directly attributable to spending by tourists.2
  • The food and beverage services industry is the largest employer among tourism businesses, accounting for over 50% of tourism jobs.
  • Tourism provides significant employment for young people. The 2016 census showed that 560,000 youth (age 15—24) worked in tourism. They make up 31% of Canada’s tourism workforce, compared to only 13% of the overall labour force and population.
  • The tourism sector is a significant source of employment for newcomers to Canada. The 2016 census showed that 28% of tourism employees were immigrants or non-permanent residents.

Labour Shortage Impact

  • The number of people aged 15–24 in Canada will decline by about 249,000 between 2015 and 2021.3
  • The potential growth of tourism is so great that the labour force may not be able to accommodate all future growth.
  • When spending by tourists and non-tourists is calculated, spending in Canada’s tourism sector could rise from nearly $187 billion in 2015 to over $287 billion in 2035 (using inflation-adjusted 2010 dollars).
  • Such growth will require 538,000 jobs be created between 2015 and 2035.
  • Current rates of labour force growth in the tourism sector suggest that 345,000 jobs can be created between 2015 and 2035 based on the number of workers available to fill those jobs. While this is impressive growth, it does limit the full expansion of Canada’s tourism sector.
  • Between 2015 and 2035, another 192,600 potential jobs could go unfilled, bringing the total number of unfilled tourism jobs during the 2010–2035 period to just under 240,000. That’s 10.5% of the jobs that potential spending would support.


1 – UNWTO, UNWTO Tourism Highlights 2015 edition, Tourism towards 2030.
2 – Statistics Canada.  Table  36-10-0232-01   Employment generated by tourism (x 1,000)
3 – Statistics Canada, Population Projections for Canada (2013 to 2063) Projection scenario M1: medium-growth, 1991/1992 to 2010/2011 trends, May 26, 2015, Catalogue no. 91-520-X.