Month: March 2019

Tourism Labour Market Forum 2019Over 70 tourism stakeholders from across Canada gathered in Ottawa on March 6 and 7, 2019, to examine the skills and labour issues hindering the growth of the sector and strategize on multiple initiatives to strengthen its future.

Hosted by Tourism HR Canada at the Delta Hotels by Marriott Ottawa City Centre, the event is a key part of the organization’s aim to create a more resilient and inclusive labour market. Delegates represented the many groups influencing tourism’s success, including business, education, labour, industry associations, and government.

A complex interplay of key drivers—political, economic, social/cultural—inform the policies and programs that focus on labour supply, skills, or mobility. An aging population, a growing global middle class, soaring interest in Indigenous tourism, misconceptions of tourism employment, housing costs, and immigration are among the many aspects influencing Canada’s tourism sector.

In the past year, the Government of Canada has invested in new programs to help the tourism sector address its labour challenges and support the 1.8 million individuals working in it. Delegates learned about the following initiatives, including opportunities to get involved:

Tourism HR Canada framed the labour crisis, sharing in-depth research and analysis of the labour market. Currently, Canada’s unemployment rate is 5.8%, the lowest since 1976. The tourism sector’s unemployment rate is 4.9%; it has been consistently lower than the total Canadian economy since 2009. Just under 100,000 tourism jobs went unfilled between 2010 and 2017. Current projections show another 145,000 could go unfilled by 2035. With the increase to Canada’s immigration intakes announced in late 2017, the sector may benefit from as many as 85,000 jobs being filled by newcomers. The remaining labour shortfall, however, still prevents Canada from gaining a much larger share of the global tourism market and increasing its global standing and competitiveness.

Unfilled Jobs in Tourism 2010-2035

Each national association—Tourism Industry Association of Canada, Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada, Hotel Association of Canada, Restaurants Canada, and Destination Canada—reported on the labour market challenges members have voiced, with sobering and salient messages attesting to impacts of a ‘tight labour market’. All talked about difficulties finding workers (from entry-level to the C-suite) and having to reduce services in spite of growing consumer demands.

Employers report that the shortage of workers has many social and economic impacts.

Labour Shortage: Economic and Social Impact

Delegates broke into working groups to address key workforce issues, including:

  • Managing seasonal employment: attraction and retention efforts; a “Seasonal Worker Strategy”; housing shortages
  • Forecasting future skill requirements: essential vs. technical/specialized skills; market readiness; impact of technology
  • Coordinating a career and image campaign: perception vs. reality; campaign elements; target messaging for job seekers, influencers, and policy makers
  • Optimizing existing programs and resources: increasing collaboration between business and community organizations to address labour matters; what’s underused and what’s missing

Each group shared their experiences and offered innovative ideas to build solutions to these and other labour market matters. Tourism HR Canada will incorporate their expertise and feedback into strategies and programs to support the sector—core to its role as Canada’s authority on the tourism labour market.

The next Tourism Labour Market Forum will take place March 4-5, 2020, in Ottawa. Subscribe to Tourism HR Insider to keep informed on this year’s outcomes and next year’s plans.


Destination Employment Advisory Committee MeetingThe Destination Employment Advisory Committee held its inaugural meeting at last week’s Tourism Labour Market Forum, at the Delta Hotels by Marriott Ottawa City Centre. Over twenty individuals from hotels, destination marketing organizations, serving agencies, and government shared their expertise and experience on connecting newcomers to Canada with employers.

Announced in 2018, the three-year Destination Employment program is helping newcomers gain meaningful employment in Canadian hotels, giving them the experience they need to build a successful future in Canada. Hoteliers, faced with a growing labour shortage, have the opportunity to fill existing vacancies and receive support and resources to integrate newcomers into their workplaces. The pilot program launched in five regions across Canada, with a goal of expanding to other areas and other industries.

For many committee members, this was their first in-person meeting with each other as well as Tourism HR Canada staff and delivery partners. The group discussed the delivery of the project, offering feedback on the initial programming already underway.

As each region has its own labour market profile and challenges, Destination Employment can be tailored to best accommodate area needs. Delivery partners gave an overview of their regional specifics, along with their successes and challenges to date. Among the topics addressed:

  • Training innovations and needs
  • Opportunities and messaging
  • Partnership building and industry engagement
  • Employer, mentor, and newcomer participation processes

The engaged group provided important feedback on partners’ experiences and lessons learned. This will help in designing and implementing appropriate solutions as the project enters its second year and looks for opportunities to expand. Of note: to offer engaging messaging on the wide variety of employment opportunities in hotels for a variety of participants, from first-time job seekers to experienced workers. Also key: to provide clear, succinct employer resources to encourage participation and to help all levels of staff connect with program and recognize the many benefits.

With training a core component of Destination Employment, the group discussed planned updates to Emerit’s Workplace Essentials and Canadian Workplace Essentials programs, as well as other training resources, expectations, and delivery methods. Participants focused on flexibility, including online delivery, language level, and specific employer/brand needs. Training developers will incorporate this feedback to ensure the most effective programming possible.

Committee members offered positive feedback on their experience, noting everyone was able to voice ideas, recommendations, and concerns. The last hour offered the opportunity to network and follow up on individual questions.

To learn more about the project or to get involved, please visit the Destination Employment webpage or email

(seasonally unadjusted)

In February 2019, the unemployment rate1 in the tourism sector was at 4.9%, which is 0.7% lower than the rate reported in February 2018, and the same as the previous month (January 2019).

At 4.9%, tourism’s unemployment rate was well below Canada’s seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate of 6.1%.

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 13.4% in Prince Edward Island.

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

Tourism employment comprised 11.0% of the total Canadian labour force for the month of February.

Table 1 – Employment Rate by Tourism Industry Group – February  2018/2019
Tourism Industry Group2 Unemployment Rate –
February 2018
Unemployment Rate –
February 2019
Tourism 5.6% 4.9%
Accommodations 9.9% 7.5%
Food and Beverage 5.4% 4.8%
Recreation and Entertainment 7.4% 7.3%
Transportation 1.9% 1.7%
Travel Services 4.5% 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 February 16, 2019.


A strong turnout and inspiring, timely discussions made for another successful annual Hotel Association of Canada (HAC) Conference. Held February 27 and 28 in Toronto, the conference theme “One Industry. One Voice.” reflected an industry that is banding together in the face of a rapidly growing tourism economy and complex challenges, from disruptors like the sharing economy to the ongoing labour shortage.

With labour challenges being a key concern for many hoteliers, Tourism HR Canada partook in two sessions at this year’s event. Delegates learned about current and upcoming research on critical labour issues and provided vital feedback to ensure two of our major initiatives, the Future Skills Framework (below) and Destination Employment (click here), reflect the needs of a variety of stakeholders, from employers to job seekers and from education to government.

Redressing Skills and Labour Mismatches

Future Skills Framework LogoIn an interactive breakout session titled Defining the Future of Tourism Skills, Calum MacDonald, Tourism HR Canada Vice President, Labour Market Intelligence, led a discussion on labour market research, the changing nature of work, and the Future Skills Framework project.

He noted Canadians’ growing focus on the economic importance of tourism and the key role of the hotel industry in supporting tourism’s growth. Hotels are obviously essential to the expanding demand of overnight international travellers, and recent research shows:

  • International overnight tourists stay longer and spend more
  • U.S. overnight travellers spend an average $470 per trip, of which 40% is on accommodation
  • Non-U.S. overnight travellers spend an average $1,650 per trip, of which 35% is on accommodation

He also elaborated on the labour shortages impacting tourism employers; these are expected to worsen and could be further exacerbated if skills mismatches and employment gaps are not addressed.

This led to introducing the Future Skills Framework project—a competency framework for the tourism sector that looks to redress skills and labour mismatches. The framework will not just embody current practice, but also describe what skills will be needed to perform effectively in the future. Covering all five industries in tourism (accommodations, food and beverage services, recreation and entertainment, transportation, and travel services), it will provide interactive resources to:

  • Assist job seekers, employers, educators, and governments to better understand the skills and competencies employers are looking for
  • Help job seekers in identifying the skills they have and how they relate to specific employment opportunities

To identify existing skills gaps among both new frontline workers and experienced supervisors and managers, delegates completed a survey.

For essential social employability competencies—the skills that people need for work, learning, and life—employers pinpointed:

  • Managing stress/resiliency
  • Problem solving and thinking skills
  • Listening skills

For hotel supervisors and managers, employers identified these areas as most in need of upgrading:

  • HR skills: train personnel, establish a human resource plan, and manage employee performance
  • Business management skills: develop a business plan and manage a business continuity crisis
  • Administrative skills: administer financial controls and procedures and maintain accounting records system
  • Risk management skills: develop and comply with a risk management plan
  • Marketing skills: monitor marketing activities and manage marketing materials

Agree? Disagree? We want to hear from tourism stakeholders across the country. The Future Skills team will be hosting events throughout this year. To register for a session near you, please email or visit the project webpage.

By Jon Kiely, Tourism HR Canada Vice-President, Product Innovation and Communications

Moderator Alana Baker (Hotel Association of Canada)
Moderator Alana Baker (Hotel Association of Canada)

I’ve personally attended the annual Hotel Association of Canada (HAC) Conference numerous times in my 20 years with Tourism HR Canada; this year was truly reinvigorating. The vibe was upbeat and positive, with a very noticeable increase in female participation in all facets of the event. Hats off to the HAC team and their meeting planners, Big Picture Conferences, for the amazing event.

I was also thrilled to hear the genuine interest and excitement about the new Destination Employment program coordinated by Tourism HR Canada, the Hotel Association of Canada, and strategic regional partners across the country. The opening and closing keynotes highlighted the innovative program and it was a big topic of conversation during breaks and lunch.

Thursday afternoon, I was fortunate to be part of a panel discussing Destination Employment. Moderated by the always eloquent Alana Baker (HAC), I was joined by Adam Morrison from Ontario regional partner OTEC, David Clark from the Atlantica Hotel Halifax, and Corinne Prince from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, without whom this project would not be garnering the interest and excitement it has.

The panel discussed the Destination Employment model from the participant perspective, the hotels actively participating, and the role the program plays in the federal government’s work to improve worker shortages while providing opportunity and much-needed support for new Canadians. I highlighted the various innovative training initiatives we’ll be piloting to assist with onboarding these new employees, while also improving their language proficiency through authentic workplace resources and emerging training technologies.

Destination Employment Panel
(L-R) David Clark (Atlantica Hotel Halifax), Adam Morrison (OTEC), Corinne Prince (Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada), Jon Kiely (Tourism HR Canada)

A key attribute of Destination Employment is its flexibility. It is being deployed in tandem with existing provincial and municipal programs that serve similar client needs. Rather than functioning as competition to other programming, Destination Employment has been designed to be adaptable and used not only as its own fully-fledged program, but also as a resource to augment existing programs that are unable to address specific employer or participant requests. It improves the offering and performance of numerous programs (many funded with taxpayer dollars), providing assistance to the sector’s labour needs, opportunities for newcomers, and a workable model for government. Destination Employment is truly win-win-win.

Following the panel, a line-up of audience members sought to learn more about the program. There was significant interest in the prospect of expanding the program to different regions in Canada and even to different industries within tourism. We’ll follow up with these individuals as we seek additional funding to bring this amazing opportunity to as many businesses, newcomers, and regions as we can.

I’m already eager for next year’s HAC Conference. We’ll showcase a full year of Destination Employment positively impacting the lives of new Canadians and improving the growth potential of tourism businesses seeking ways to combat labour shortages.

Tourism HR Canada has just released the latest on the tourism labour force across the country. The information presented here is drawn from Statistics Canada’s Labour Force Survey.

The data is seasonally unadjusted to allow comparisons between the tourism sector and the overall economy. As such, monthly and annual numbers for Canada’s entire labour force will differ from the seasonally adjusted numbers that are commonly reported.

Tourism Unemployment in 2018

The tourism sector’s unemployment rate reached a record low of 4.9% in 2018, down from 5.3% in 2017. The tourism unemployment rate was almost a full percentage point lower than the unemployment rate for the overall labour force, which also reached a record low, at 5.8% (down from 6.3% in 2017).

Annual Unemployment:

In the final month of the year, the tourism unemployment rate was 4.1%, which is surprisingly low, as December tends to be a month in which tourism unemployment rises due to seasonal variability. In 2018, the unemployment rate for the tourism sector was in fact lowest in December, followed by July at 4.2%.

Monthly Trends

Tourism is made up of 29 individual industries assembled into five industry groups. The accommodation industry group had the highest annual unemployment rate in 2018, at 6.7%, while the transportation industry group had the lowest, at 2.7%.

The accommodation and recreation and entertainment industry groups showed the greatest monthly variability, with accommodation reaching 11.3% unemployment in March but dropping to 2.8% in July, while recreation and entertainment varied from 8.3% to 3.7% unemployment depending on the month.

Provincial Trends

Regionally, Prince Edward Island experienced the highest annual tourism unemployment rate, at 11.1%, while Alberta experienced the lowest, at 3.9%. This is a significant shift for Alberta, which saw tourism unemployment rates rise from 2.6% in 2014 to 5.3% in 2017.

The high annual unemployment rate in some provinces is largely the result of volatility in seasonal demand. For example, the tourism unemployment rate in Prince Edward Island dropped from close to 20.0% in April 2018 to 2.4% in July and 0.0% in August before swinging back up to 18.8% by December. New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador showed similar volatility. In comparison, the tourism unemployment rate in Ontario had fewer volatile swings, moving from a high of 5.7% in March to a low of 3.7% in October.

Annual Tourism Unemployment Rate by Province:

Long-Term Trends

The annual unemployment rate in tourism has been consistently dropping since 2009, save for a small increase in 2014. Prior to 2009, the tourism sector had reached low unemployment rates of 6.0% in 2007 and 6.2% in 2008. Due to the worldwide economic downturn, unemployment rates rocketed in 2009. Tourism peaked at 7.6%, while the overall labour force reached 8.3%. Both rates have trended lower since that time, with the tourism sector maintaining a consistently lower unemployment rate ever since.

Part-Time & Full-Time Employment

Job growth has occurred among both full-time and part-time tourism positions, with part-time positions growing slightly faster than full-time. In 2000, part-time positions made up 32.7% of tourism jobs; they had grown to make up 37.5% of tourism jobs by 2018.

Share of Total Tourism Employment:

You can get detailed labour force survey data by occupation and region through our Rapid reSearch tool, hosted on Sign up for an account to gain access to the data.

canada_govThis project is funded by the Government of Canada’s Sectoral Initiatives Program

The opinions and interpretations in this publication are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Government of Canada.

Source: Adapted from Statistics Canada’s Labour Force Survey. This does not constitute an endorsement by Statistics Canada of this product.