Month: August 2018


(seasonally unadjusted)

In July 2018, the unemployment rate1 in the tourism sector was at 4.2%, which is 0.2% lower than the rate reported in July 2017, and lower than the previous month (June 2018), when the unemployment rate stood at 4.5%.

At 4.2%, tourism’s unemployment rate was well below Canada’s seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate of 6.0%.

With the exception of Food & Beverage Services, 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 2.4% in Prince Edward Island to 6.5% in Newfoundland and Labrador.

The seasonally unadjusted unemployment rates for tourism in each province were below the rates reported for the provincial economy (Figure 1).

Tourism employment comprised 11.9% of the total Canadian labour force for the month of July.

Table 1 – Employment Rate by Tourism Industry Group – July 2017/2018
Tourism Industry Group2 Unemployment Rate –
July 2017
Unemployment Rate –
July 2018
Tourism 4.4% 4.2%
Accommodations 3.6% 2.8%
Food and Beverage 4.9% 5.1%
Recreation and Entertainment 4.0% 3.7%
Transportation 4.0% 4.0%
Travel Services 6.4% N/A

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 July 21, 2018.


The Canadian tourism sector continues to face a critical shortage of labour, with projections forecasting worsening conditions if the status quo remains unchanged. If more workers cannot be attracted to the sector, it risks losing its competitive edge as businesses cannot meet demand, service quality diminishes…and tourists go elsewhere. This information will come as no surprise to employers already facing shortages, but it is a scenario that needs to motivate policy makers, career counsellors, and industry advocates.

The dwindling pool of potential workers is only part of the recruitment challenge. As a destination for employment, tourism has many advantages, but it also faces limitations.

Perceptions—mostly misperceptions—of what it is like working in the sector can be damaging to filling vacant positions and attracting people to meet the projected growth.

Survey Says

A Tourism HR Canada survey revealed many favourable perceptions of tourism employment. In general, 62% of respondents would recommend a job in tourism to family or friends, and this number was even higher (69%) among respondents who had worked in the sector.

Further, respondents who had worked in tourism reported gaining many valuable skills, especially those necessary for working with others and for providing exceptional customer service: communication skills, empathy, listening skills, and anticipating customer needs. These “soft skills” are vital to a successful career in any sector.

But the survey also revealed areas of concern, especially related to respondents’ perceptions around turning a tourism job into a career. Besides chefs and some management positions, most jobs in tourism were seen as temporary or placeholder jobs.

Of the 27% of respondents who had worked in tourism, the median duration of their employment in the sector was three years. When asked why they had left, the most frequent responses were “other/better career opportunities” (36%) and “desire for a career change” (31%).

When those who had not worked in tourism were asked why they had never done so, 41% cited other/better career opportunities.

Many people do work in tourism while attending school or training for their desired vocation. The flexibility that some tourism jobs offer has always been part of their appeal to students, artists, entrepreneurs, and others whose lifestyles benefit from increased flexibility at work…but there are also stable, well-paying positions for those who seek a more traditional work schedule and the opportunity to build a successful, rewarding career.

Opportunity Abounds

While tourism offers the short-term or seasonal work some seek, often overlooked are the corresponding full-time supervisory and managerial positions available.

Every business that employs seasonal or part-time staff also needs permanent, full-time employees to manage the day-to-day operations and planning needed to be successful. Many of these mid-level and management employees start on the frontline and work their way up the ranks as they master new skills and learn different facets of the operation. These positions can vary from HR to marketing, sales to corporate trainer, finance to event planning.

Survey participants who had worked in the industry were more likely to indicate that working in tourism helps build the skills needed for opening a business. We know that 7% of those employed in tourism identify as being self-employed, and that 73% of tourism businesses (over 72,000) are small businesses, employing fewer than 20 employees.

These businesses are more likely to promote from within and be progressive in their efforts to retain employees, partly because of their owners’ career experience and partly because they recognize that it costs less time and money to provide the training an employee needs to advance within the organization than to find and train a new hire. Frontline workers are trained in other areas of the organization, move into more challenging and better compensated full-time supervisory and managerial positions, and build a tourism career in the process.

While tourism professionals in occupations with positive perceptions, like chefs, hotel general managers, and business owners, may have had some formal education in their field, many of these individuals started in occupations looked upon less favourably, such as prep cooks, dishwashers, servers, and bartenders. Herein lies the disconnect between perception and reality: without the experience gained in occupations perceived as less desirable, an individual may never have been able to attain the occupation that is positively perceived.

Tourism stakeholders must confront these perceptions of tourism occupations and work to showcase tourism career pathways to the public and to frontline employees. Innovative HR practices, career fairs, partnerships with co-op programs, job shadowing, mentoring, and social media campaigns are a few options.

If jobs continue to go unfilled because job seekers look elsewhere or frontline staff leave after a few years, service will suffer and tourism businesses will lose an important source of experienced mid-level and management employees. At stake? Our success and economic impact in an extremely competitive global market.

Have you noticed that the number of people working in tourism seems to vary? You go to one presentation and there are 1.8 million people in tourism. At another, there are 1.78 million, and at yet another, the number drops to fewer than a million. And those are just the national numbers—forget the provincial and territorial ones. Why the inconsistency?

For one, the number of people working in tourism has been growing—rapidly. Over the past several years, the tourism sector has been adding jobs at a faster rate than the overall economy. Some of the confusion stems from new yearly numbers being released and used, while job numbers from past years are still being quoted in reports and presentations. For example, the 2011 census counted 1.6 million people employed in tourism. The 2016 census had over 1.8 million (1,833,190 to be exact). Until the 2016 census data was recently released, the 2011 data was still being used, and it takes a while for everyone to make the shift.

But what about that 1.78 million number? In short: the census isn’t the only source of information on tourism jobs. To explain why there are so many numbers out there, let’s examine the three datasets commonly used by Tourism HR Canada.

The census is our most recent dataset, counting 1.8 million people working in the tourism sector in 2016. The census is based on individual Canadians self-reporting a number of demographic factors about themselves, including their jobs and the industry in which they work. This makes it our most detailed dataset. Whenever you see a statistic such as 26% of tourism workers are immigrants, we are using census data. The census captures very detailed data, but only every fifth year, and the data is for a single point in time—usually April or May. Were the census taken in July or August—the height of Canada’s tourism season—it would likely show an even higher number of people working in tourism. If it were taken in January, it would show a lower number.

A second dataset we use evens out the monthly fluctuations in tourism employment and provides information for the years in between censuses. This is the Provincial-Territorial Human Resource Module (PTHRM). The PTHRM provides detailed information on the number of jobs in the tourism sector by province and territory. Unlike the census, the PTHRM counts jobs, not individuals. Also, it captures full-year jobs. A full-year job is defined as regular work for the period of one year, regardless of the number of hours per week. If the work exists for only a fraction of a year, then it only counts as the corresponding fraction of a job. The latest PTHRM is available for the years 1997 to 2015. In 2015, it showed there were 1.78 million full-year tourism jobs in Canada.

Finally, the labour force survey (LFS) can be used to show the level of employment and unemployment in tourism. Generally, we only use the LFS to show unemployment, to avoid confusion with employment numbers available from the census and PTHRM. However, we occasionally draw on the LFS when we need to show the monthly fluctuations in employment that occur within the tourism sector. The LFS surveys a sample of Canadian households—representing roughly 56,000 individuals each month. As a sample, it is prone to more variability than the census or PTHRM. But, at the national level, it can give us a good picture of monthly employment trends.

Labour Force Survey: Monthly Labour Force Size January 2011 to June 2018

The labour force survey also provides annual averages of employment. These tend to show a higher level of employment in tourism than the PTHRM or census. This is partly due to the level of refinement in the datasets: the LFS includes some sub-industries that are removed from the PTHRM. But it is also partly due to the PTHRM showing the number of jobs, whereas the LFS covers the entire labour force and includes both the employed—who are filling jobs—and the unemployed, who are not. However, even if we only consider employed individuals, the LFS does tend to show the tourism sector being a larger employer than the PTHRM or census do.

Tourism Jobs and Employees (Census, PTHRM and Labour Force Survey)

All three datasets covered so far show the total number of either people or jobs that exist within the tourism sector. But, there is another measure of tourism employment. This one measures the total number of jobs in the Canadian economy that are caused by tourists spending money. Not every job in the tourism sector is due to tourists. For example, the restaurant industry derives about 20% of its revenue from tourists—enough for it to be considered part of the tourism sector, but 80% of revenue and therefore about 80% of restaurant jobs are due to local residents.

In Canada, the national tourism indicators (NTI) track the number of jobs directly caused by tourism spending. These numbers are often used by destination marketing organizations because their mandate is to increase the number of tourists and local spending is less of a concern. The NTI reports the number of “jobs due to tourism”, whereas the datasets used by Tourism HR Canada report “jobs in tourism industries”. The difference is significant: in 2015 there were 1.78 million jobs in tourism industries, but 708,000 jobs directly caused by tourism spending.

Jobs in Tourism Industries (PTHRM) vs Jobs Due to Tourism (NTI)

Regardless of the dataset, the takeaway should be the rapid growth of tourism. The data that examine jobs in tourism industries show the tourism sector is growing at a faster rate than the economy as a whole. From 2011 to 2016, the census showed an increase of 3.8% in the number of employed individuals in Canada. And in tourism? An increase of 11.0%. Similarly, from 2011 to 2015, the PTHRM showed an overall growth rate of 4.0% in Canadian jobs, but 7.0% growth for tourism.

With competition for labour intensifying, tourism employers are positioning themselves as desirable places to work and, relatedly, boosting the image of tourism employment as a whole.

Marketing campaigns that seek to build an employer’s brand have been highlighting innovative HR practices and unique benefits, which help pique the interest of those who may never have considered a job or career with them—or in tourism at all.

McDonalds, for example, has a series of recruitment ads in which employees detail the advantages of working with them: skills that will last a lifetime, such as leadership, communication, teamwork, problem solving; a supportive environment; training; advancement opportunities.

Club Med has published videos on social media to let potential job seekers see not only how the company operates but also learn about the people behind the company. The company promotes the Club Med Spirit with the slogan “Find the real you”, highlighting that employment at the company helps develop existing skills, learn new skills, and tap into unknown talents.

The Radisson Blu Hotel also uses videos and social media to highlight why potential job seekers would want to work there and to provide a realistic depiction of what a typical day is like for employees in specific occupations.

However, not all employers have the resources to build such campaigns. Recognizing that many tourism businesses are small and medium-sized, other tourism stakeholders have initiated strategies to improve the employment image from broader perspective.

Tourisme Bas-Saint-Laurent and its regional partners produced a television promotion showcasing why people should work in the industry and the type of training required, along with various testimonials. It also highlighted the importance of tourism to the region.

Restaurants Canada produced a brochure detailing the importance of Canada’s food and beverage industry as an employer. In addition to providing high-level statistics, the brochure highlights its important role in providing many Canadians with their first employment experience. It also profiles various restaurant owners from diverse backgrounds and regions in Canada who explain their motivations and their connections with their communities.

With the labour gap broadening, Tourism HR Canada will continue to share a variety of strategies to increase the attractiveness of working in tourism. We detail a number of current initiatives in Bottom Line: Bridging the Labour Gap. A summary of the report is available free of charge, or the full downloadable report can be purchased here.

Tourism HR Canada is making available new data on the tourism labour force in each province and territory in Canada. This data comes from the 2016 census and provides information on the demographics of the tourism labour market, including age, gender, work patterns, immigrant status, and education level.

Across Canada, there were over 1.8 million individuals employed in tourism industries in 2016, ranging from just over a thousand individuals in Nunavut to almost 700,000 individuals in Ontario.

You can search through these new tables to find information on the tourism sector in your region. Some examples:

  • In British Columbia, 13.3% of the employed labour force worked in the tourism sector
  • Immigrants made up 23.5% of workers in Saskatchewan’s tourism sector
  • Almost half of workers in the North West Territories accommodation industry were Indigenous
  • Tourism employed over 62,000 individuals in Manitoba

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.

These tables present only a portion of the available data—there is also information for 20 census metropolitan areas, for the year 2011, and data can be cross tabulated upon request. For further details email

It’s an uphill battle. Ask most people what they think about tourism and hospitality jobs and you’ll likely hear about dead-end, low-paying, low-skilled work that serves only to pay the bills until something better comes along. This impression has been fostered across Canada for years, by everyone from parents, teachers, and guidance counsellors to politicians and the media to the very people who work in the sector.

This narrative may finally be changing, thanks to a coordinated, concerted effort to combat negative stereotypes, innovate attraction and retention practices, and draw positive attention to a sector that employs 1 in 10 working Canadians and is one of the fastest growing in the world, outperforming the global economy for the past seven years.

A key piece of this is the Government of Canada’s Tourism Vision, which shows a national commitment to supporting and strengthening the sector across the country. Investments in marketing, access, and product are improving our destinations…and increasing a sense of pride amongst the 1.8 million Canadians working in them.

To keep the momentum going, we need to shift how we speak about tourism and hospitality and call out misconceptions and falsehoods. How? Here are some ideas.

  1. Choose your words carefully. Be mindful when referring to “low-skilled” or “starter”. All jobs require individuals to learn skills and perform them in the most efficient way possible. Calling a position “low-skilled” minimizes these efforts. And while tourism employs a high percentage of young people, many of whom will transition to other industries, plenty of people make a career in the sector. Others are transitioning from different industries and are bringing years of experience with them. That “starter” job may be something they’ve worked hard to attain or an opportunity for them to share their knowledge and skills. Let’s applaud their achievements. Use the actual job title where possible, or try other terms like “hospitality” or “culinary” positions.
  2. React. (Politely, of course.) Reading an article that makes tourism sound like a dirty word? Conversing with someone who says they’d never want to work in hospitality? Question why and provide facts on the benefits tourism provides and the variety of work experiences and opportunities for advancement available.
  3. Be proud. Explain what you do and what a key role it plays in the economic and social growth of your community. Don’t be shy about sharing your or your colleagues’ successes, whether it’s a formal award or simply a job well done.
  4. Be helpful. If someone expresses an interest in learning more or in working in tourism, encourage them in any way you can. Share your experiences, offer to mentor them, connect them with others in the industry, or point them to education or training programs that will get them started. That immediate support and the realization that you can build a career in tourism will leave a lasting impression.
  5. Be honest. There are some long hours, hard work, unglamorous tasks, and unhealthy behaviours in some tourism workplaces. It’s important to not gloss over these, as it will undermine your credibility. However, don’t hesitate to point out that these issues are not unique to tourism, and counter these points with examples of what the sector is doing to mitigate the issues: supportive HR practices, sexual harassment mitigation training, technological innovations, mental health awareness campaigns, charitable causes, etc.