Month: February 2020

By Joe Baker

Originally published by Canadian Lodging News

The shortage of talent facing the Canadian hospitality and tourism industry has reached crisis levels in some parts of the country. Operators may be experiencing this at a local level but the issue is much more than a localized trend. It has become one of the most significant obstacles this industry has ever faced. And it’s not going away any time soon. The confluence of pressure points is creating the perfect storm. The good news is that industry, education and government are doing a better job of working together to address this issue and protect an industry that is vital both to the Canadian economy and to the Canadian culture itself.

Let’s explore some of the factors at play. In terms of employment, tourism is one of the largest sectors in Canada, employing over 1.8 million Canadians. More people work in tourism than in industries such as manufacturing, construction and public administration. The sheer size of this workforce is what makes these labour shortages so challenging for industry operators.

Canada's tourism labour shortage by year

According to Tourism HR Canada, in 2015 the Job Vacancy and Wage Survey showed 22,320 vacant full-year tourism jobs. By the end of 2020, the job shortfall in the sector is expected to reach over 51,000. Between 2010 and 2018, as many as 100,000 jobs have gone unfilled in the Canadian tourism industry and that number continues to grow. Although vacancies were advertised, employers were unable to fill these positions. Lack of skilled workers also prevented business expansions among tourism organizations to the tune of $10.1 billion of unrealized revenue across the country by 2035.

Number of tourism workers vs other sectors

One of the influencing factors is the competitive nature of the world of work. Well-trained hospitality workers are assets to many other industries. Many of these organizations are taking notice of our talented labour pool. From financial services to long-term care organizations, Canadian tourism talent has much to offer competing industries. Whether its advanced customer service skills or business acumen, experienced tourism workers are finding great success in their second careers making it that much more important for tourism employers to map out career paths for their current workforce.

In a 2016 survey of 2,000 Canadians, Tourism HR Canada found that only 23 per cent of Canadians, both working in the industry and those not in the industry, believed wages were competitive with only 31 per cent believing benefits were competitive. These are systemic issues that only employers can address. While understandably complex and challenging, without addressing wage and benefit gaps, less-and-less Canadians see tourism as a viable career path. Or worse, they enter the industry only to leave a few short years later. This is not sustainable.

Staff turnover directly impacts the quality of customer service, increases staff burnout and leads to loss of revenue. Businesses face increased costs, missed business opportunities and reduced hours of operation. Under-qualified and under-experienced staff provide inferior customer service and reduced quality standards. This also created a host of other HR challenges. In many cases, with the absence of available workers, managers end up doing double duty to keep operations afloat.

If nothing is done to increase the supply of labour, the shortfall in revenues for the tourism sector (based on 2015 projections) is estimated at $10.1 billion by 2035. This is close to 3.2 per cent of all potential earned revenue.

Breakdown of the tourism workforce by industry group

Canada’s increased immigration targets provide an opportunity to fill the tourism’s labour needs. Recent changes to immigration policy will fill tourism jobs that would otherwise have gone unfilled. Since 2017, the federal intake of immigrants to Canada has been increasing. It will reach 350,000 individuals by 2021. While the tourism sector is still faced with finding people to fill 93,000 tourism jobs, higher immigration means the shortage outlook is much less acute previously. From 2017 to 2035, this policy change is expected to fill 44,000 tourism jobs that would have otherwise gone unfilled.”

Canada ranks as the world’s 4th most popular destination for international students. In 2017, there were 494,525 international students in Canada. That represents a 119 per cent increase since 2010, and an increase of 20 per cent over the previous year. International students made up 12 per cent of the postsecondary student population in Canada in the 2015-2016 academic year. Of the 494,525 international students in Canada, 48 per cent are in Ontario, 24 per cent are in British Columbia and 12 per cent are in Quebec.

Chart of tourism jobs unfilled by province by 2035

More international students are choosing Canada and transitioning to permanent residents. New figures show significant increase in the number of international students enrolling in Canadian colleges and universities with more than half reporting their intention to stay in Canada after graduation. This is a huge opportunity for education to work closely with industry as these students become graduates and a new Canadian talent pool. This is only expected to grow over the next several years.

As educators, we need to continue to work with industry to identify the skills required for the future of work in the tourism sector. As operators, we need to be open to exploring change in both workplace culture and wages as we lift the image of our industry to attract young Canadians and under-represented groups to these positions. And at the same time, we need to welcome our new Canadian workforce with the same enthusiasm we show our international visitors. We are tourism after all. Accommodating the needs of our workforce is not unlike accommodating the needs of our clients and guests. We will face and overcome these issues together. Industry x education.

Joe Baker is Dean, School of Hospitality, Tourism and Culinary Arts, Centennial College, and a Director on the Tourism HR Canada Board.

Republished with permission of Canadian Lodging News. Click here to see the original article.

Calgary Participants

Tourism HR Canada and the CGLCC, Canada’s LGBT+ Chamber of Commerce, have kicked off a national LGBT+ tourism development initiative, thanks to funding from the Government of Canada’s Canadian Experiences Fund.

The project supports Canadian tourism businesses as they ensure their operations are open and welcoming to all travellers and workers. This includes diversifying and expanding product and service offerings, with the option of extending seasons or creating new experiences.

Valued at US$200 billion, LGBT+ tourism is an opportunity for economic development with great potential for profitable, long-term products and services. The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) states that LGBT+ travellers are recognized as travelling with greater frequency and with higher-than-average spending.

Earlier this month, the team hosted consultation sessions with LGBT+ community and tourism industry stakeholders in six cities: Halifax, Thunder Bay, Montreal, Toronto, Yellowknife, and Calgary.

Montreal Participants

Participants shared regional perspectives, experiences, needs, priorities, and opportunities around the community engagement, market development, and industry readiness necessary to develop, welcome, and grow the LGBT+ travel market in Canada.

Among the questions asked:

  • Have you attended an inclusivity or diversity workshop or training? If so, how long ago?
  • What are your perspectives or experiences with LGBT+ communities from staff, customer, and/or partnership perspectives?
  • What language do you/your organization use to refer to the LGBT+ communities?
  • What is your level of familiarity with various concepts inherent in the LGBT+ communities?
  • Can you share an example of how the tourism industry collaborates with local LGBT+ organizations?
  • To what extent does your workplace actively market to or seek out LGBT+ customers?
  • How could inclusivity training or other tourism materials/programs support you in serving LGBT+ communities?
  • Do you feel that your workplace is a positive space for LGBT+ staff? For LGBT+guests? What are some ways to create an LGBT+ positive space?
  • What would be important for you and your colleagues to know to better understand the travel needs of LGBT+ people?
  • How well do you and your colleagues understand the LGBT+ language?

The feedback gathered will anchor the content development for a national series of inclusion workshops and train-the-trainer workshops.

Stay tuned to Tourism HR Insider for project updates and workshop dates, or visit the CGLCC website for more information and contact details.

(seasonally unadjusted)

In January 2020, the unemployment rate1 in the tourism sector was at 5.7%, which is 0.8 percentage points higher than the rate reported in January 2019, and higher than the previous month (December 2019), when the unemployment rate stood at 4.6%.

At 5.7%, tourism’s unemployment rate was just below Canada’s seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate of 5.8%.

Of the tourism industry groups, Food & Beverage Services, Recreation and Entertainment, and Transportation reported equal or higher unemployment rates than the same month last year (Table 1).

On a provincial basis, tourism unemployment rates ranged from 2.8% in Manitoba to 18.3% in Prince Edward Island.

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

Tourism employment comprised 10.8% of the total Canadian labour force for the month of January.

Table 1 – Employment Rate by Tourism Industry Group – January 2019/2020
Tourism Industry Group2 Unemployment Rate –
January 2019
Unemployment Rate –
January 2020
Tourism 4.9% 5.7%
Accommodations 9.6% 7.2%
Food and Beverage 4.6% 6.3%
Recreation and Entertainment 6.9% 6.9%
Transportation 1.8% 2.8%
Travel Services N/A N/A
Figure 1 – Tourism Sector vs. Total Labour Force Unemployment Rates by Province (Seasonally Unadjusted)

See interactive charts

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 January 18, 2020.

Employee turnover can be costly, disruptive, and time-consuming. To help employers understand the decisions behind voluntary turnover and keep valuable staff engaged, Tourism HR Canada recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Safa, a Canadian-based software company that provides tools and a certification process for employers to improve employee retention.

Applying psychological principles and using artificial intelligence and predictive algorithms, Safa works with hoteliers to measure and assess employee turnover risk and intention. Safa believes that improving employer profitability and employee happiness can be synonymous.

“Our Safa Insight platform puts the power of industrial-organizational psychology in the hands of organizations who previously would have had to regularly hire expensive consultants with long wait-times for results,” explains Jason Trask, Safa Co-Founder and CEO. “With this evidence-based approach, customers get access to the exact knowledge that allows them to take immediate action in their business.”

Safa Insight tells hotel owners and operators which employees plan on quitting, why, and how to keep them. It also translates impacts on the profit and loss (P&L) statement and provides an implementation framework, all of which is integrated into the “Safa Certification” process. This makes Safa’s insights actionable and outcomes measurable. Moreover, Safa can benchmark any hotel against cohorts of its peers.

Safa’s proprietary “Turnover Intention Index” was developed by industrial-organizational psychologists based on validated academic research and utilizes artificial intelligence so it continuously improves.

The unique “Safa Certification Process” provides employers with a structured, repeatable business process to effectively analyse, plan, and implement their employee retention strategy. Becoming “Safa Certified” shows employees and other stakeholders that the employer adheres to the highest standards when addressing employee retention. Safa empowers companies to use data, not intuition, to proactively increase employee retention and quantify the financial impact on the company.

As part of the MOU, Safa will conduct primary research among the hotel owners and operators to ascertain the following with respect to employee turnover:

  • Data currently collected by hotel owners and operators
  • Strategic objectives regarding employee turnover and its impact on their company
  • Types of research desired and needed for them to achieve their organizational key results
  • Types of data they would be willing to collect (facilitated or supported by Safa) to enable Safa to provide them with:
    • data output, including industry benchmarking
    • predictions regarding which employees plan on quitting, why, and how to keep them
    • cost analysis, future cost projections, and return on investment calculations against various retention initiatives (all of which can be presented in such a manner as to allow the hotel owners/operators to translate initiatives to financial return for shareholders)

“As part of our mandate to build a world-leading tourism workforce, it’s important that we identify and bring to the industry’s attention new and innovative methods of helping tourism businesses meet their labour challenges,” says Calum MacDonald, Tourism HR Canada Vice-President, Labour Market Intelligence. “We know the hotel industry is facing chronic labour shortages, and Safa’s system offers an opportunity for employers to retain current employees and identify during the recruitment process potential employees who are likely to stay longer. AI and data analytics are growing fields. In tourism, we have seen them successfully applied in the customer research and destination marketing field. It’s application to the labour market has just as much potential.”

Tourism HR Canada and Safa will also discuss future joint labour market research.

If you are interested in being included in this research project, please contact Jason Trask at or Calum MacDonald at

THRC logoTourism HR Canada’s Board of Directors supports and guides our pan-Canadian organization as we deliver on our mandate of building a world-leading tourism workforce. Our team facilitates, coordinates, and enables human resource development activities that support a globally competitive and sustainable industry and foster the development of a dynamic and resilient workforce.

Thirteen Directors representing a cross-section of all Canadian tourism sector stakeholders are each vetted against our Board Competency Framework. This ensures a focus on the core competencies individual Directors can contribute to the collective expertise of an engaged and proactive Board.

Tourism HR Canada is now accepting nominations for three voluntary Director positions:

  • Two Directors representing “Provincial or Regional Tourism Sector or Related Association”, i.e., associations or organizations whose mandate is provincial or regional
  • One Director representing “Provincial, Regional, Pan-Canadian or International business or related organization with an emphasis on tourism or tourism related services (i.e., at Large)”


Directors on Tourism HR Canada’s Board must:

  • Be a member in good standing and adhere to the Code of Ethics
  • Agree to serve a two- or three-year term
  • Attend two in-person Directors’ Meetings per year (June and November) and one Annual General Meeting held in conjunction with the November Directors’ Meeting
  • Serve on Board-appointed committees where needed
  • Assist in networking, arranging meetings with stakeholders, or representing Tourism HR Canada at events
  • Participate in annual self and Board of Director evaluation process

Nomination Process

Tourism HR Canada’s selection process is open and transparent. Directors will be selected from among candidates based on their eligibility, need, and the Tourism HR Canada Board Competency Profile.

A candidate may self-nominate or be nominated by another person. Candidates who are nominated by another person will be contacted to confirm consent to their nomination.

The Nomination Committee will review and vet all candidate applications and present the recommended slate of candidates for consideration to the Board of Directors. The final election of the Directors will occur at an extraordinary meeting of the Board in March 2020.


To be eligible, candidates must be:

  • A current member of Tourism HR Canada
  • 18 years of age or older
  • Demonstrate the minimum qualifications outlined in the Board Competency Profile

How to Apply

Submit the following documents to Tourism HR Canada by Friday, February 21, 2020:

  • Completed application form
  • A CV, as a supporting document highlighting your qualifications as they relate to the Board Competency Profile
  • One to two letters of reference from a professional supporting your nomination

Please email for the Board Competency Profile and Application Form.

As we begin a new year and look forward to this year’s Labour Market Forum, Tourism HR Canada is taking the current pulse of the labour market from the perspective of tourism businesses.

Our 2020 Tourism Outlook and Labour Issues Survey is now live.

We ask a few questions about the effects of the current economic climate on your tourism business, particularly with respect to your labour needs. We also ask about your expectations for the coming years.

The goal: to assist the tourism sector in preparing for what lies ahead.

The survey will take 10 minutes of your time.

The information provided by respondents will be treated in the strictest confidence. You will not be identified in the report and the feedback you provide will remain completely anonymous.

We will continue to promote the 2020 Tourism Outlook and Labour Issues Survey via our newsletter and social media channels. We invite our partner industry associations to further our reach by distributing our call for participation to their own members.

To complete the survey in English, click here.

Pour répondre à cette enquête en français, cliquez ici.


The Future Skills Framework has kicked off 2020 with two focus groups to continue its validation of the framework with the real-life experiences of industry professionals.

In late January, tourism experts with strong qualifications in finance—including CFOs, CPAs, and additional related designations—met in Calgary to review the areas of the framework concerned with the management and implementation of budgets, cash control procedures, payroll, and other tasks in the realm of finance and accounting.

As this article went to press, a dozen industry experts in Winnipeg were meeting to feed back on the framework from their perspectives. Participants with a wide variety of backgrounds, representing six provinces’ worth of insights into sales and marketing, are currently making sure that the competencies in their field of expertise—ranging from developing a marketing strategy to managing online presence—captured what it takes for tourism operators to successfully market their offering.

The Future Skills team will hold further sessions in Ottawa and Toronto in late February, aiming to review the framework’s sections on sustainability, cleanliness, risk management, and business management. If you are a tourism professional with insight into any of these areas and would like to be part of future-proofing the industry’s labour market, please get in touch.

These sessions contributed towards the FUTURE SKILLS FRAMEWORK, a multi-year project aiming to develop a comprehensive framework to redress the skills and labour mismatches in tourism while aiding job seekers, educators, and governments to better understand the skills and competencies employers are looking for. To learn more about the project, click here.