Month: May 2018

Tourism HR Canada is delighted to announce that Jesse Tiefenbach has accepted its 2018 Distinguished HR Service Award, formally recognizing his significant contributions to growing a world-leading tourism workforce.

The award is presented annually to individuals or groups that demonstrate leadership in advancing human resource management practices that contribute to economic and social benefits for workers and the Canadian tourism sector.

Jesse is Chief Human Resource Officer for d3h Hotels, which manages 14 hotels throughout Alberta and Saskatchewan, employing over 300 people. He is dedicated to developing d3h and its employees through the use of innovative HR management practices.

“It is truly a privilege to have been chosen for the Distinguished HR Service Award,” said Jesse. “We certainly work hard as a business to ensure we are doing everything that we can for our amazing people. I’ve worked with d3h for 11 years and I’ve always understood how critical a well-functioning and forward-thinking HR department truly is. As a company, we understand that it is our people who take care of the guests we serve on a daily basis. As such, we do our best to ensure we take care of our people. We celebrate our 20th year in business in 2018; this methodology is time tested and has been incredibly successful for us.”

Jesse began his career with d3h at the age of 17, working at the Days Inn Medicine Hat as a front desk agent for what was planned to be a summer job. Catching the eye of d3h management, however, he quickly advanced into positions of increasing responsibility, and in three years was at the helm of the group’s 10th hotel, the Days Inn Regina Airport West. His success there led to being part of the launch of further properties, earning his emerit® Certified Hotel General Manager credential, and being recognized by Tourism Saskatchewan as a Tourism Ambassador.

His people skills, enthusiasm, and passion for hospitality then saw him move to d3h’s head office, where he became Training and Employment Manager, travelling among the group’s properties to support staff. Promoted to his current title, he now oversees all areas of HR for all d3h hotels, and became a d3h Hotels partner and an employer representative of the Agriculture, Tourism and Service Sector for the Saskatchewan Apprenticeship and Trade Certification Commission (SATCC), where he has helped to create higher standards for trades within the industry.

Jesse is a strong supporter of training, certification, and apprenticeship, encouraging staff to partake in several programs:

  • emerit® national certification programs and related training
  • SATCC’s Guest Services Representative Apprenticeship Program (and resulting Journeyperson status)
  • Saskatchewan Tourism Education Council (STEC)’s World Host program

This and other progressive HR practices have earned d3h the STEC Employer of Choice (EOC) designation; one of their properties has been an EOC from the inception of the program in 2010.  Highlights of current HR programs include:

  1. A robust health benefits program, modified every few years based on the needs of employees
  2. An in-house incentive program to encourage staff improvement and retention
  3. A travel rewards program to spark a passion for tourism in employees
  4. A Manager in Training program to help groom and retain incredible managers—50% of the current senior hotel management team participated in the program, testifying to its success.

Additionally, d3h offers yearly staff recognition awards:

  • Random acts of kindness awards are presented to employees who go the extra mile, whether with guests or colleagues.
  • Heart of courage awards are presented to individuals who have overcome personal tragedy or illness in their lives. The award lifts spirits and shows the hotel’s support.
  • Platinum awards are presented to three individuals who truly exemplify d3h’s core values and live them out in their day to day interactions. The winners receive a $3000 travel voucher to travel anywhere in the world.

Jesse adds, “All in all, our goal is to have strong employee engagement. We try to touch base with our employees frequently to really listen and hear what they would like. We conduct an annual employee survey which gives us great insight towards trends. Our senior leadership team then uses this information to structure town hall meetings, or what we like to call “Round Tables”, at each hotel. They allow us the opportunity to sit and talk with all staff across Alberta and Saskatchewan. It is a phenomenal tool for us to use and has been a big part of why we are so connected to our staff.”

Tourism HR Canada is announcing this award as part of Tourism Week, and will present the award later this June, at STEC’s Leadership Conference and Recognition Dinner. Our congratulations to Jesse on his accomplishments, and best wishes for d3h’s continued success.

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Tourism HR Canada is pleased to announce the Banff & Lake Louise Hospitality Association (BLLHA) as this year’s recipient of its annual Leadership Award, recognizing its contribution to advancing progressive HR practices in Canada’s tourism sector.

The BLLHA serves as a strong advocate for the accommodation, food and beverage, and tourism sector in one of the most beautiful places on Earth. In its role as an industry advocate, the association works with local industry on common political and economic interests that benefit everyone in the region.

Tourism HR Canada first took note of BLLHA’s proactive and innovative approach to HR issues and advocacy a few years ago, and has worked with the association to supply the labour market data it needs to focus its efforts and make compelling arguments for supporting new initiatives.

Three initiatives in particular demonstrated BLLHA’s commitment to building mutually beneficial partnerships to supply much-needed employees to businesses in the national park, while also providing opportunities for professional development and a chance at meaningful, stable employment to those looking for a career.

  1. Partnering with Royal Roads University on a pilot project to offer 30 international students (the majority from China) a multi-day, hands-on opportunity to undergo training in various hotels, exposing them to different departments and workplace team dynamics.
  2. Spearheading a workforce development initiative that included awarding $500 bursaries to nine deserving individuals, allowing them to complete or augment their education/training. The bursaries covered a wide range of employment opportunities available in the hospitality sector in Banff.
  3. Reaching out to potential Indigenous partners to attract and support more participation from the local Indigenous community, improving the area’s labour challenges. The program connected workers from the Stoney Nation with hard-to-fill hospitality jobs in Banff and Lake Louise. The initiative addressed two challenges: providing employment opportunities to Stoney Nation residents and connecting job seekers with companies in need of hundreds of staff during peak season.

BLLHA continues to think outside the box and explore new and innovative ways of addressing labour shortages that—like the rest of Canada—are projected to continue for the foreseeable future. The association’s approach is something other community associations can look to for ideas and inspiration.

Upon receiving word of the award, BLLHA President Trevor Long stated, “The Banff & Lake Louise Hospitality Association is truly honoured to receive the award for Outstanding Contribution to Advancing Progressive HR Practices. We have been blessed by the strong and ongoing support of our partners to explore new and innovative approaches to address our destination’s labour force needs. While some of our labour force recruitment and retention efforts have proven more successful than others, we are reminded that it is the sustained commitment to ‘reach further’ that matters.”

Tourism HR Canada is announcing this award as part of Tourism Week, and will present the award later this June, at BLLHA’s annual Board meeting. We congratulate the Banff & Lake Louise Hospitality Association and look forward to assisting with its ongoing and new initiatives by ensuring access to timely and accurate labour market data.

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A record 1.8 million Canadians worked in the tourism sector in 2016, recently released census data reveals. Those 1.8 million individuals account for 10.6% of all employed individuals in Canada. As a sector, tourism is the third-largest employer of Canadians, and is rapidly growing. The number of people employed in tourism has increased 11% since 2011, whereas the total number of people employed in Canada has grown just 3.8% in that same time.

Tourism HR Canada will be releasing a series of reports using 2016 census data. Up first: our national summary, profiling Canada’s tourism employees.

As a service sector, the individuals who work for us are key to tourism in Canada continuing to grow and thrive. To ensure our sector is not just a destination for tourists, but also a destination for Canadian workers, we must understand who works for us now. Tourism`s workforce:

  • Tends to be young
  • Includes a greater share of immigrants, Indigenous peoples, and visible minorities than the overall labour force
  • Has a greater share of individuals working part-time, many of whom are youth aged 15 to 24

As a sector, it employed more individuals than manufacturing, education services, construction, professional, scientific and technical services, or public administration!

Over the next few months, we will be using the census data to profile each tourism industry group and five demographic segments of the workforce that are of particular importance to tourism. Look for these reports in the coming months:

  • Accommodations
  • Food & beverage services
  • Recreation & entertainment
  • Transportation
  • Travel services
  • Indigenous peoples
  • Youth
  • Mature workers
  • Workers reporting a disability
  • Immigrants & non-permanent residents

These reports present a fraction of the available data—there is also information for each province and territory and for 20 census metropolitan areas. For details on your region, email

Tourism Week in Canada, held May 27 to June 2 this year, is a time to celebrate the economic impact and social benefits of tourism across this country.

Tourism is a major employer of Canadians, with 1.8 million people working in tourism-related jobs in all regions of the country. That’s 10.6% of all workers in Canada.

Destination Canada reported a record-setting 20.8 million visitors in 2017, and international tourism revenues topped $21 billion. Tourism spending represents 2% of our GDP.

The Government of Canada’s New Tourism Vision seeks to grow and support the sector, and sets the following targets:

  • Canada will compete to be one of the Top Ten most visited countries in the world by 2025.
  • The number of international overnight visits to Canada will increase by 30% by 2021.
  • The number of tourists from China will double by 2021.

Tourism is thriving and is poised to grow even further. In a sector that relies on personal interactions—whether it’s the agent checking someone in, the driver on the way to the hotel, the server at the must-try restaurant, the guide at the gallery, gate attendant at the waterpark, or the sales clerk helping to select an umbrella to replace that one you left by the front door (we’ve all done it, right?)—it’s vital to have an ample number of skilled, passionate people working at the 200,000 businesses across the country.

Labour shortages are a reality in many regions of the country—for some occupations, in all regions. They impact growth, as business owners as forced to scale back on investments, reduce hours, or close altogether. In a sector with a high percentage of small businesses, many owner-operators are doing the work of multiple people, causing burnout. These factors impact service levels, causing visitors to potentially have a less-than-welcoming stay here. With a world of options, they may travel elsewhere next time—and advise their friends to do the same.

We all want to maintain a sustainable and competitive tourism sector—but even with recently increased immigration targets, we’re facing a possible 60,000 unfilled tourism jobs by 2035.

Let’s be proactive. Working together, we can develop effective strategies around the attraction, retention, and training of employees.

Through our labour market supply and demand reports, we examine ways we can address the shortage. These include:

  • Businesses, governments, and industry associations collaborating to build policies that make tourism a destination for employment
  • Raising the profile of the sector to capture the career paths and managerial roles available
  • Matching those seeking employment with tourism jobs
  • Dispelling myths about low pay and long hours as the norm
  • Highlighting the sector as a place to gain valuable work experience and skills
  • Broadening attraction efforts to include Indigenous peoples, people with disabilities, and new arrivals to Canada
  • Continuing to analyze immigration targets, including the categories

And let’s remember that keeping valuable employees is the best way to avoid shortages—training and innovative HR policies allow employees to feel supported, grow in their roles, advance in an organization, and be recognized for their contributions and dedication.

As we celebrate Tourism Week, let’s be sure to recognize and thank the dedicated professionals working across the country. They are our greatest asset, and careful thought and planning will make sure we can inspire even more to join us in breaking records.

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(seasonally unadjusted)

In April 2018, the unemployment rate1 in the tourism sector was at 5.1%, which is 0.8 percentage points lower than the rate reported in April 2017, and lower than the previous month (March 2018) when the unemployment rate stood at 6.4%.

At 5.1%, tourism’s unemployment rate was below Canada’s seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate of 6.1%.

Except for Recreation & Entertainment and Travel Services, 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 4.0% in Ontario to 19.5% in Prince Edward Island.

The seasonally unadjusted unemployment rates for tourism in each province, except for Prince Edward Island, 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 April.

Table 1 – Employment Rate by Tourism Industry Group – April 2017/2018
Tourism Industry Group2 Unemployment Rate –
April 2017
Unemployment Rate –
April 2018
Tourism 5.9% 5.1%
Accommodations 11.4% 8.9%
Food and Beverage 5.6% 4.4%
Recreation and Entertainment 7.1% 7.7%
Transportation 2.4% 2.3%
Travel Services 3.1% 4.4%
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 April, 2018.

Tourism HR Canada was pleased to be invited to the Parliamentary Tourism Caucus to present our projections on available labour in tourism through to the year 2035.

More than 20 Members of Parliament and Senators attended the April 25th session, which focused on labour issues impacting tourism’s growth and competitiveness.

The projections included the effect of the federal government’s new immigration intake levels. While the new, higher immigration numbers will have a positive impact on the total number of workers the industry will need to meet the anticipated labour shortage, a shortfall of 60,000 is still projected.

Tourism HR Canada then presented a brief outline of its Action Plan, coming out of the very successful annual Labour Market Forum held in Ottawa in March. Key amongst the Action Plan priorities are:

  • Reinforce the value proposition of tourism
  • Improve coordination on labour market research and analysis
  • Develop and engage the Indigenous workforce and seek resources to launch a comprehensive strategy to do so
  • Develop more policies and programs aimed at helping the sector address labour market shortages

Tourism HR Canada was joined by the Tourism Industry Association of Canada (TIAC), the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada (ITAC), the Hotel Association of Canada (HAC), and the Banff & Lake Louise Hospitality Association (BLLHA) in presenting a current snapshot of the tourism sector and its priorities.

All stakeholders in attendance upheld the need for federal policies that support immigration streams that meet the skills and labour market demands crucial to the continued growth in the sector and that provide a path to permanent residency. Additionally, all participants called for support for federally funded capacity and skills development programs which prioritize the tourism sector.

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Since It’s Your Shift launched in the fall of 2017, more than 4,000 tourism and hospitality workers have participated in this training to combat sexual harassment and violence in hospitality operations in Ontario.

While the four modules for employees and one for managers are available online, the accompanying Manager Workshop and Manager Toolkit were developed to encourage in-person training and discussion. These resources will guide owners/operators through providing managerial staff with additional resources, techniques, and templates that will assist them in implementing and maintaining a safe and welcoming environment for employees and guests alike.

The Manager Workshop can be accessed free of charge here; it includes a Facilitator Guide, Participant Guide, and a comprehensive Powerpoint presentation to help managers learn the best way to integrate and sustain some of the guiding principles and practices presented in the training.

This flexible workshop can be administered before or after a business has had its employees register or engage in the It’s Your Shift online program. It offers managers a range of supports that can be planned and implemented no matter what the status of training of staff going through the online modules.

When disaster or tragedy strike, local businesses are often eager to assist, providing help with immediate needs and ongoing healing. Tourism and hospitality businesses are particularly well poised to make an impact, as accommodation and food are often two urgent necessities for those affected and for emergency services personnel and volunteers.

After April’s tragic Humboldt Broncos bus crash, several area hotels offered free stays to those affected. Such a generous offer comes with important considerations:

  • Are staff members prepared to assist grieving families and friends?
  • Are there enough staff members available to help with the increased needs?
  • Are any staff members themselves affected? Will they need time off and/or counselling?
  • Which amenities are helpful? Which are not?
  • How can a business get word out to those who need the help or those who want to help, without seeming to capitalize on the tragedy?
  • How can local management coordinate an offer for help with a parent company?
  • How can (or should) a business make sure a guest’s need for help is genuine, such as asking for proof of residence?
  • How long should an offer remain available?
  • How can staff continue to serve current or imminent patrons?

As reported by Canadian Lodging News, the Travelodge Saskatoon followed several steps to ensure their guests were treated with the utmost care. Employees were provided with training to interact with guests as delicately as possible. A conference room was set aside for people to have a communal space in which to gather. Media were turned away. A mental health service was called to offer support.

Natural disasters have also led to similar offers to help. Hotels in areas affected by the wildfires in BC (2017) and Fort McMurray and surrounding communities (2016) were quick to provide discounted rooms to evacuees and out-of-town emergency crews. Restaurants donated meals. West Jet and Air Canada offered discounted rates and flexible cancellation policies. Businesses far and wide ran fundraisers to help the victims.

The attacks at a music festival in Las Vegas, the Boston Marathon, or tourist hotspots such as Nice and Barcelona, all highlight the importance of tourism businesses ensuring all staff have basic training in the event of a local incident—being able to provide an immediate safe space to tourists and locals involved, and then staying involved as it becomes clear what help is needed.

How can you ensure your business is prepared to help?

Provide training: All staff should know whom to call and what local resources are available in the event of any type of emergency. Onboarding should include an overview of how best to interact with anyone seeking help in a crisis. Have printed resources readily accessible, in case power is affected. Should an incident arise, provide more in-depth training specific to the crisis—pull in experts, such as grief counsellors, as needed.

Access local expertise: Ask emergency services how your business can best be of service, contact volunteer groups to see if they need specific items or resources, tap into counselling services to ask about dos and don’ts.

Be genuine: When a Halifax-area franchisee of a national chain advertised green and gold donuts to honour victims of the Humboldt crash, it was revealed that the proceeds were not going to the fund for the team. The incident was later clarified, but the reputational damage was done. Make sure everyone recognizes this is an opportunity to give back to the community, not an opportunity to drum up sales.

Contribute in a meaningful way: If community organizations announce they are overwhelmed with clothing donations for evacuees, look at ways to help organize or distribute the donations, such as freeing up a meeting room to sort the goods or providing paid time off for staff members to assist.

Follow up: A community will not heal as soon as emergency personnel head home. Blood drives, fundraisers, and commemorative events all make sure the affected parties do not feel forgotten and maintain a positive relationship with the community. Be sure to also check in with your staff—keep the lines of communication open to see if anyone needs help working through the emotions of being part of a crisis.

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In this, the fourth installment of “milestone” articles celebrating our 25 years as the voice of the tourism labour market, we look at programs that have provided thousands of Canadians with the entry-to-practice skills training required to work in a variety of tourism operations.

The first national program focused on preparing unemployed and underemployed Canadian youth for employment in the tourism sector was called Tourism Careers for Youth (TCFY)—it launched in 1994.

This integral program assisted Tourism HR Canada in addressing a key component of its mandate: attracting an increasing number of young people to consider the sector as one where they could have a successful and rewarding career. Aided by strong support from the federal government, Tourism Careers for Youth had great uptake across the country, with each region adding training components, like WHMIS and First Aid, to address specific priorities within their jurisdiction.

Propelled by the positive response, between 1994 and 2002 the program expanded to more regions and adapted to address specific labour market needs. This eventually led to the adoption of a new brand, Ready-to-Work (RTW), and the roll out of a new three-year contract (2002-2005) with the federal government.

Program Components Common Across Jurisdictions

  • Pre-employment classroom training: Instructor-led learning, including career planning, transferable skills, and occupational-specific technical skills
  • Workplace training: On-the-job, occupation-specific training from a workplace trainer, plus mentorship and feedback
  • Work placement: Participants attain gainful employment in an entry-level tourism occupation

With the new program in place, Tourism HR Canada worked closely with its network of provincial/territorial partners to strengthen the program while still ensuring a flexible application. Some of the key attributes that changed over this time included:

1.      Criteria for who was eligible to enroll in the program: The age limit for TCFY went from 27 when the program started to 30 at the time of the rebranding, and eventually it was eliminated altogether. Part of the impetus for the re-branding was the removal of “Youth” in the program title, since it was now available to a much larger pool of candidates.

2.      Expanded number of stakeholder groups accessing the program: Based on the labour market needs in different parts of Canada, specific demographic cohorts were accommodated and components of the program adapted to work for:

  • New Canadians
  • Indigenous Canadians
  • Young Canadians
  • At-risk youth
  • Persons with disabilities
  • Career changers

3.      Additional pre-employment learning content: With the introduction of new training resources like Emerit’s Workplace Essentials and Canadian Workplace Essentials, the RTW program benefitted by offering more comprehensive pre-employment training that included: entry-level and essential skill acquisition, language skills for ESL participants, cross-cultural awareness, communication skills, and career planning.

4.      Commitment of employers for job placement stage: Over the life of the RTW program, expectations for employers taking on participants for the “on-the-job” component were refined and codified. Employers were also supplied with training supports (including training materials) to assist in further training participants in the workplace.

While national funding for the RTW program ended in 2013, the model has endured, and the program still operates in some jurisdictions by tapping into regional and municipal funding.

Since its introduction, the TCFY/RTW program succeeded in providing job prep training, on-the-job training, and job placements for over 25,000 Canadians from incredibly diverse demographic profiles. Additionally, more than 4,000 of the individuals completing the program went on to earn a national credential, obtaining Emerit Professional Certification in occupations like Housekeeping, Front Desk, Food & Beverage Service/Bartending, Line Cook, and Heritage Interpretation.

Over its lifetime, the TCFY/RTW program provided a path to participation in the workforce to thousands of Canadians looking for work, also helping employers looking for qualified staff. Years of innovation, refinement, and built-in flexibility became the hallmark of RTW, and the program philosophy and various components continue to find their way into new programming and new labour market initiatives.

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