Month: April 2018

Annually, Tourism HR Canada brings together 60 or more industry representatives from across Canada from all tourism sectors.

This year’s event was held in Ottawa in March, with the heads of national associations, employers, academia, senior representatives from the provincial/territorial tourism human resource organizations, various interest groups, and government officials participating in two days focused on discussing prevailing tourism labour market issues.

The key outcomes and identified priorities of the Forum are used to inform a ‘Tourism Labour Action Plan’.

Four priority action items were identified for 2018. We delve into each below, and will of course provide regular updates though HR Insider and our website.

Action Item #1: Reinforce value proposition beyond economic benefits, with a focus on social capital and cohesion, and promotion of multiculturalism and Canadian identity.

Action Item #2: Improve coordination on labour market research and analysis, building on existing initiatives and avoiding duplication.

Action Item #3: Reinforce the priority of the development and engagement of an Indigenous workforce; focus on seeking resources to launch a comprehensive strategy.

Action Item #4: Develop more strategies to inform policy and programs aimed at helping the sector address labour market shortages.

Reinforce value proposition beyond economic benefits, with a focus on social capital and cohesion, and promotion of multiculturalism and Canadian identity.

Tourism HR Canada has often used the statement “Tourism is vital to Canada’s economy; it is a key driver of socio-economic progress” to help distinguish the sector over others facing labour shortages.

Current data shows how investing in tourism is good business. All sizes of businesses, governments, and communities benefit from stable revenue-generating and employment prospects. In many cases, tourism has transformed local economies, enabling them to recover from sectors that have diminished or been wiped out.

Forum participants carefully considered what distinguished tourism over other sectors, making it a great destination for employment and career prospects—and further reinforcing why increased investment by governments and businesses will be lucrative.

Their thoughts?

  • Tourism is a main contributor to culture and heritage. It has a highly diversified workforce—much more so than most other economic sectors—and employs many people in their first Canadian job. Tourism operators invest in training to enable people to gain the language skills, Canadian workplace experience, and job-related skills that enable them to enter the workforce.
  • Tourism is well known for responsible environmental management or stewardship. The product or service offer from many tourism businesses is based on a sustainable business development model. Tourism businesses factor in land use planning and conservation, waste reduction, and being eco-efficient to help reduce ecological impacts. For many, their reputation and the very ‘experience’ they offer capitalizes on the fact that they are environmental stewards.
  • Tourism contributes to political stability. Scholars have long studied how tourism is a means for political and ideological goals. For example, Edgell (1990) asserts that “the highest purpose of tourism policy is to integrate the economic, political, cultural, and intellectual benefits of tourism cohesively with people, destinations, and countries to improve global quality of life and provide a foundation for peace and prosperity.” In many ways, the Canadian tourism brand is built on a reputation of political stability and its safe and secure conditions.
  • Consequently, tourism is synonymous with Canada’s identity. It embodies the very values or ideals that define the Canadian culture.

Labour Market Forum participants were asked to provide one “persuasive statement that reinforces tourism’s unique value proposition”. Many ideas were presented. Below are a few examples for each of the key stakeholder groups:

  1. Funding agencies, governments and policy stakeholders:
    • Tourism Builds Canada
    • #TourismMatters
  2. Job seekers:
    • Tourism is a life experiencelive your dream.
    • Careers in tourism take you places.
    • We make good times happen.
  3. Parents, guidance counsellors, and other influencers:
    • You can do anything in tourism.
    • Life skills and experiences that take you places.

Participants also discussed ways to better coordinate and communicate the value proposition, with the aim of working towards a common, cohesive message.

Improve coordination on labour market research and analysis, building on existing initiatives and avoiding duplication.

Forum participants identified labour market research and analysis as imperative to the sector’s success.

Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) supports Tourism HR Canada’s labour market research initiatives, recognizing them as one of Canada’s “foundational labour market forecasting systems”.

This funding enables Tourism HR Canada to serve its stakeholders (such as businesses, academia, governments, and industry associations) by providing timely and tailored labour market information, including:

  • demographic stats
  • salary trends
  • supply/demand projections
  • provincial/territorial labour data

The funding also provides resources to help conduct regional labour market studies and other forms of labour market consultation, and specialized analysis.

Tourism HR Canada’s Strategic Plan highlights labour market intelligence (LMI) as the first ‘Performance Pillar’. The organization strives to be the “the most reliable source of labour market information, data and analysis for the well-informed tourism professional”.

The plan goes on to assert: “Tourism HR Canada plays an integral role in the collection, contextualization, and dissemination of accurate and timely labour market intelligence. Businesses and institutions can use the national and regional data and analyses to make informed, strategic decisions about the supply and demand of labour, training trends, compensation rates and practices, and demographic characteristics of the labour pool.”

The demand for regional and tailored labour market research is growing. In the last year alone, Tourism HR Canada has worked with industry groups and governments on focused research in Yukon, Newfoundland and Labrador, Banff, Cape Breton, and New Brunswick. National associations and others have asked for specialized data. Groundbreaking studies lead by industry associations such as go2HR in British Columbia and research conducted by the Conference Board and other interest groups illustrate the demand for increasingly more tailored information, and the need for further types of data.

A key outcome of the Forum was a call for increased coordination of LMI, reducing the duplication of efforts and leveraging of resources, where possible.

Tourism HR Canada committed to further facilitating, coordinating, and enabling tourism labour market research, including:

  • collecting methodologies
  • serving as a repository for current studies
  • assisting groups with survey or research design
  • helping disseminate information

Reinforce the priority of the development and engagement of an Indigenous workforce; focus on seeking resources to launch a comprehensive strategy.

The Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada (ITAC) has been working with Tourism HR Canada for two years, singularly focused on mounting a pan-Canadian strategy aimed at increasing the number of well paying, sustainable Indigenous tourism jobs and better positioning Canada as a destination for quality Indigenous tourism experiences.

This year’s Forum ignited a passionate discussion on the need to remain steadfastly focused on developing a strategy and seeking funding to engage the Indigenous workforce.

Although the tourism sector has a higher percentage of Indigenous workers than the Canadian workforce overall, it only accounts for 3.5% of our workforce, and the unemployment rate of Indigenous people is nearly double (excluding people living on-reserve) that of the Canadian population overall.

Tourism is an opportunity for employment and for investment by Indigenous entrepreneurs, especially at a time when the demand for Indigenous tourism experiences far outstrips capacity.

ITAC and Tourism HR Canada will enlist in the broad support of the sector to mount a strategy and will continue to work with partners to help communicate with governments on the urgency and gravity of the matter.

Primary aims of their joint project include:

  • Increasing the productivity and competitiveness of Indigenous tourism businesses
  • Contributing to the increase of well paying, stable jobs through the development of new products and services, and by attracting, training, and retaining Indigenous workers in Indigenous tourism businesses
  • Improving the human capital practices of Indigenous tourism employers
  • Strengthening partnerships and building capacity with service providers and labour market partners

Develop more strategies to inform policy and programs aimed at helping the sector address labour market shortages.

The success of the industry is contingent on addressing longstanding labour and skills issues.

Tourism, like many other industries, is finding it increasingly difficult to find and retain qualified workers, and the challenge extends beyond Canada. Despite record numbers of visitors, tourism’s growth will be increasingly hampered if the sector lacks the skilled individuals capable of offering the transformative experiences today’s tourists seek.

A targeted skills and workforce development strategy is crucial. Businesses, organizations, governments, and the education sector need improved workforce planning strategies, along with the resources, appropriate support mechanisms, and capacity to implement them.

The Forum identified the need for further strategies to address the chronic shortage of workers and preparing for even greater shortages over the next decade.

A sense of urgency fueled views that the industry had to continue to be proactive and increase the engagement of people who have not traditionally been engaged or employed.

The discussions built on the five outcomes or recommendations from the previous Labour Market Forum:

  • Improved investments by governments and employers: investments need to go beyond infrastructure and marketing. Funds towards workforce planning, detailed studies, and coordination should be a priority.
  • Boost productivity: increased incentives and smart funding to enable employers to invest in training and skills development and improved human capital practices.
  • Increase heterogeneity/further diversify the workforce: increase participation of under-represented groups—in particular, Indigenous peoples, refugees, and immigrants.
  • Increase immigration and improve mobility: favourable immigration policies that support the talent supply required by tourism; increased flexibility and improved efficiency.
  • Transform education and training: programs better fit to employment needs; more responsive to demand; broad-based skills development; product development and managerial skills development.

Look for further actions as we continue to engage with tourism stakeholders across the country and proceed with our labour market initiatives.

Earlier this month, the Tourism Industry Association of Canada (TIAC) and Tourism HR Canada (THRC) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that leverages the strengths of both national organizations to better meet the needs of tourism operators and employers across the country.

TIAC brings its proven track record as a strong advocate of Canadian tourism businesses, promoting and supporting policies, programs, and activities that lead to sectoral growth, development, and global competitiveness.

THRC brings 25 years’ expertise on labour market research, training, and credentialing, supplying tourism businesses with the resources and analyses to plan for and overcome HR challenges.

While the two national bodies have worked closely together for over two decades, this MOU formalizes some existing practices and offers new reciprocal activities.

A key component of the agreement sees the two organizations presenting an integrated approach in disseminating crucial labour market data to as broad a tourism audience as possible. Look for:

  • coordinated messaging to all stakeholders
  • co-branded research and labour market data distributed to both organizations’ audiences

Additionally, TIAC members will now have free access to labour market summary reports, as well as a 20% discount on the fee to access THRC’s Rapid ReSearch platform and Emerit training and certification products, all available through THRC’s learning management system,

Tourism HR Canada will benefit from the large audience and distribution network that TIAC has grown, allowing greater dissemination of timely, accurate, and critically important labour market information needed by all tourism operators in Canada.

Both organizations will continue to seek innovative ways to support one another, all the while making sure they are collectively providing Canada’s tourism sector with the resources, advocacy, and shared vision to foster growth.

Sign up for HR Insider to get articles like this delivered to your inbox.

(seasonally unadjusted)

In March 2018, the unemployment rate1 in the tourism sector was at 6.4%, which is 0.3 percentage points higher than the rate reported in March 2017, and higher than the previous month (February 2018), when the unemployment rate stood at 5.6%.

At 6.4%, tourism’s unemployment rate was above Canada’s seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate of 6.3%.

Except for Food & Beverage Services, all tourism industry groups reported higher unemployment rates than the same month last year (Table 1).

On a provincial basis, tourism unemployment rates ranged from 1.7% in Manitoba to 18.8% in Prince Edward Island.

The seasonally unadjusted unemployment rates for tourism in each, except for Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Quebec and British Columbia, 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 of March.

Table 1 – Employment Rate by Tourism Industry Group – March 2017/2018
Tourism Industry Group2 Unemployment Rate –
March 2017
Unemployment Rate –
March 2018
Tourism 6.1% 6.4%
Accommodations 10.9% 11.3%
Food and Beverage 6.3% 5.4%
Recreation and Entertainment 6.3% 8.8%
Transportation 3.2% 3.6%
Travel Services 2.6% 6.0%
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 March 17, 2018.

Tourism HR Canada recently commissioned a series of questions as part of the Hotel Association of Canada’s travel intentions survey. This was an online survey of 1527 Canadians who stayed in a hotel in Canada in 2017.

We were interested in Canadians’ thoughts on:

  • The importance of service
  • Whether service quality had increased or decreased
  • How they valued hotel staff availability
  • How they perceived staff compensation

Customer Service

Not surprisingly, customer service is important to the majority (77%) of travellers, although 22% were neutral, rating it neither important nor unimportant. It was most important to leisure travellers and travellers over the age of 55.

Importance of Customer Service

Canadian hotels scored well on ratings of customer service, with 37% saying the service levels were better or much better than levels in other countries, and 45% saying it was about the same.

Most also felt that hotel service was the same or better than what they received three years ago, with only 4% saying it was worse. This was supported by answers to a similar question we asked in 2015: it received comparable results, suggesting that the labour shortages in the industry are not yet impacting customer service, or at least not in a way noticeable by the customers themselves.

Service Levels Compared to Three Years Prior

Job Automation

Advances in AI and robotics have escalated discussion on the degree to which jobs can and will be automated. To what degree service jobs can be automated depends on how much customers value the ability to interact with a person.

The majority of respondents said it was valuable to have a staff person available during check in and on site, to answer questions during their stay. Leisure travellers were more likely to value having a person available, as were women and older travellers.

Value of Staff Availability

While respondents continue to want human interaction, whether their beliefs will hold in the face of evolving automation is likely dependent on how well AI can learn the human abilities to respond quickly and efficiently and to adapt to the wide array of problems hotel guests need help with.


We asked travellers if they thought three types of hotel staff were well paid. Over half felt supervisory staff were well or somewhat well paid, while about half felt the same of front desk staff. A majority did not believe that housekeeping staff were well paid.

Perceived Pay for Hotel Staff

In a 2017 survey, we asked travellers what they considered a fair hourly wage for a range of staff. The largest share of respondents felt that housekeepers and front desk clerks should receive $14 to $16 an hour. A significant share thought desk agents should receive $16 to $18 an hour, while a large share thought $12 to $14 was sufficient for housekeepers. Since these were considered “fair wages”, it suggests that travellers believe these two occupations are paid lower wages. Stay tuned as to how this changes after minimum wage increases in several jurisdictions.

Fair Wage for Hotel Staff (2017)

Sign up for HR Insider to get articles like this delivered to your inbox.

In this, the third installment of “milestone” articles we’re publishing to celebrate our 25th anniversary, we shine the spotlight on the origins of our research and labour market work, specifically the development of the national Total Tourism Sector Employment report.

When Tourism HR Canada released the inaugural Total Tourism Sector Employment report in 1998, it published the most comprehensive report on Canada’s tourism labour force up to that time.

The report contained profiles for twenty occupations, six industry groups, and the entire tourism sector, all based on the 1996 census. It also contained an overview of tourism employment for 1997, drawing on labour force survey data, and projections of tourism-related employment to 2002 and 2005, using the Canadian Occupational Projection System (COPS). Due to its scope, the report and its subsequent editions became known as the report on Total Tourism Sector Employment (TTSE).

The development of the TTSE was made possible by the earlier creation of the Canadian Tourism Satellite Account. Historically, tourism faced difficulties being recognized as a sector because it emerged as an economic driver after the systems used to measure economic activity were already in place. While tourism has a long history, it started to become much more common in the 1950s, thanks to greater car ownership, the emergence of passenger jet travel, and Europe’s recovery following World War II.

The systems that measured economic activity included the components of tourism, such as hotels and recreation facilities, but they were scattered throughout other sectors of the economy. As tourism grew, the need to measure it as a discrete unit of economic activity also grew.

In 1991, resolutions adopted at the International Conference on Travel and Tourism Statistics, held in Ottawa, became the starting point of what would eventually become the United Nations World Tourism Organization’s Tourism Satellite Account Recommended Methodological Framework. The people working on this initiative were some of the brightest minds in the field. Even before they were adopted internationally, Canada was applying these measurements to its own systems of economic measurement. Twenty-nine tourism industries were identified within Canada’s System of National Accounts. This information could then be compiled to measure the tourism sector, as the framework could be applied to multiple datasets.

Tourism HR Canada continued to update and publish the TTSE as new data became available in 2004, 2005, and 2008. As aspects of the TTSE (such as the labour projections) became more refined, they evolved into their own projects and reports, including:

  • Tourism labour supply and demand studies
  • Demographic profiles of people working in tourism
  • Labour force survey reports

None of this groundbreaking work would have been possible if not for the assistance of the federal government in supplying the funding to undertake this important work—work that continues to inform business and policy decisions aimed at growing Canada’s share of the global tourism dollar. Funding over the next three years will assist Tourism HR Canada to continue to collect, analyse, and disseminate timely and accurate labour market information needed by a diverse group of stakeholders.

Our research has evolved with changes to the level and frequency of data released, such as the yearly labour force survey data morphing into monthly reports on employment and unemployment in the sector (see this month’s LFS update). Additionally, the census data that formed the core of the TTSE became the Who’s Working for You series of demographic profiles. The most recent series was published using 2011 census data—new versions featuring the just-released 2016 data are expected in the late spring of this year.

Subscribe to HR Insider to be the first to know when we release the new Who’s Working for You reports.