Month: December 2020

The impact of COVID-19 on our mental health cannot be understated. What began as a sudden, unprecedented disruption has turned to months of uncertainty, stress, change, and isolation.

We are not well equipped to handle long periods of crisis. Our fight-or-flight instinct helps us deal with imminent threats to our safety. When exposed to chronic stress, our system goes into overdrive, leading to long-term exposure to the hormone cortisol. Its effect? Increased inflammation, leading to diverse symptoms such as rashes, stomach aches, and headaches through to depression and loneliness.

While the arrival of a vaccine signals hope for recovery and reopening throughout 2021, we will continue to live in a changed reality for months to come—particularly in tourism. The full resumption of the travel economy in Canada depends not just on the uptake of the vaccine here, but worldwide. We recognize that many jobs have been lost, businesses shuttered, and lives altered. It will take time to get back on our feet. As we do so—and even once we have—it is vital for us to support each other and take care of ourselves as we try to manage the disruption to our lives.

To help with this, we’ve collected a number of resources to understand the mental health implications of the pandemic and offer ways to help process the ongoing stress. Our hope is these will raise awareness of what signs and symptoms to look for in oneself and others, and direct us all to the expert advice and guidance that will help us cope in a healthy, positive way.

First and foremost: if you are in immediate danger, please contact emergency services for your area.

You can also access support workers, social workers, psychologists, and other professionals—confidentially—by texting WELLNESS to:

  • 686868 for youth
  • 741741 for adults

It’s OK not to be OK. The Government of Canada wisely asserts that fear, stress, and worry are normal in a crisis. You might feel like you’re no longer in control of things. It’s normal to feel sad, stressed, confused, scared, or worried. People react in different ways. Some common feelings include:

  • A sense of being socially excluded or judged
  • Concern about your children’s education and well-being
  • Fear of getting sick with COVID-19 or of making others sick
  • Worry about losing your job, not being able to work, or finances
  • Fear of being apart from loved ones due to isolation or physical distancing
  • Helplessness, boredom, loneliness, and depression due to isolation or physical distancing

Find a way to cope that works for you. You may want to get out and run no matter what the weather or try simple stretches in the comfort of your home. You may want to chat on the phone for hours or find five minutes of peace and quiet in a crowded house. Below is some overarching advice to help guide healthy strategies:

  • Stay socially connected, whether it’s video chat, social media, or even snail mail
  • Practise mindfulness, from simple deep breaths to a guided meditation routine
  • Try to eat healthy foods, exercise regularly, and get adequate, restful sleep
  • Limit your use of substances
  • Focus on what you can control
  • Be kind to yourself and others

Seek support—anytime. While some may feel like they need to reach breaking point before seeking professional support, please know that it’s okay to reach out even if you’re just needing another perspective or have questions about healthy behaviours. The sooner you feel supported and understood, the more manageable the stress is. The Mental Health Commission of Canada provides this list of resources:

Anxiety Canada

Bell Lets Talk

Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction

Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA)

Canadian Women’s Foundation

Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH)

The Family Institute: Counseling@Northwestern

Health Standards Organization (HSO) and Accreditation Canada

Mood Disorders Society of Canada

Morneau Shepell

Ontario Network of Sexual Assault/Domestic Violence Treatment Centres

The Mental Health Commission of Canada also provides this graph summarizing the mental health continuum model and corresponding actions to take.

The toll of the pandemic on the mental health of Canadians is increasingly alarming. A new study from the Canadian Mental Health Association and the University of British Columbia shows 40% of those surveyed said that their mental health had deteriorated since the COVID-19 outbreak began, a figure that rose to 61% among those with a pre-existing mental-health issue.

In the hard-hit tourism sector, employers are facing the stress of both managing their own mental health and that of their staff amidst increasing restrictions, financial struggles, and uncertainty around when and how the welcome news of a vaccine will affect the reopening of the travel economy…and whether their business can stay afloat until then.

As stated by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, while managers are not—and should not be expected to be—medical experts, they need to be comfortable having discussions about mental health and recognize they will often be the first port of call when a colleague wants to raise an issue.

The Institute recommends employers:

  • Support and guide their managers so that they feel equipped to have sensitive and supportive discussions with staff
  • Remind managers about the importance of communicating regularly with their team and asking how they are.
  • Encourage staff to practise self-care such as a healthy routine for diet, sleep, and relaxation
  • Promote their existing health and well-being benefits and support, for example signposting people to their counselling helpline.

Here we offer some resources to help managers and HR teams with supporting their staff through the COVID crisis—and beyond.

Randstad details actions employers can take to make mental health a priority in the workplace:

Human Resources Director discusses ways in which HR can help relieve employee stress:

Harvard Business Review looks at leadership when the leaders themselves are drained:

Ottawa Public Health makes recommendations to support mental health for a variety of workplaces:

CEO Health & Safety Leadership Network shares a range of resources for employers, ranging from leadership behaviours to handling compassion fatigue and burnout:

Workplace Safety & Prevention Services offers downloadable PDFs around mental health:

Make It Our Business provides guidance on how employers can help support staff subjected to domestic violence:

Tourism employment decreased for the second month in a row in November, falling by 34,400 jobs, a 2.1% decrease from October. (Data is from the week of November 8 to 14.)

Unlike last month, when employment losses were concentrated in Quebec, most provinces saw a loss of tourism employment in November. The greatest loss occurred in Manitoba (-13,900), followed by Quebec (-11,400) and Ontario (-10,200). The decline in Manitoba is particularly notable as it represents a loss of 22.6% of tourism employment compared to October.


  • Tourism employment declined by 34,400 in November, a decline of 2.1% from October.
  • Employment gains occurred in the transportation (23,500) and travel services industries (7,200).
  • Approximately 32,000 jobs were lost in both the food and beverage services and recreation and entertainment industries, while the accommodation industry group lost 1,300 jobs.
  • In November, the tourism sector employed 466,000 fewer people than in November 2019.
  • Despite employment losses, the tourism unemployment rate declined to 13.9% (from 14.5% in October). This was driven by a decrease in the number of unemployed individuals. The number of unemployed tourism workers dropped from 282,300 in October to 262,700 in November.
  • In tourism, employment losses since February exceed employment lost across all industries. Employment across all industries–including tourism–is down by 300,000 jobs, while tourism employment on its own is down 410,000 jobs since February.

Please note: To allow comparisons with tourism sector data, which sees significant employment fluctuations over the year, we use seasonally unadjusted data for both tourism employment and overall employment.

Tourism Employment Rate

In November, employment (unadjusted for seasonality) across the entire Canadian economy decreased by 19,800. Overall, tourism employment dropped by 34,400 jobs due to a loss of 43,400 part-time jobs and a gain of 8,800 full time jobs.

From October to November, employment declined in the accommodation (-1.1%), food and beverage services (-3.9%), and recreation and entertainment industries (-8.1%). Employment gains occurred in the transportation (+8.1%) and travel services industries (+18.3%).

In November 2019, tourism employed 2,056,000 Canadians. This November, the sector employed 1,652,000 Canadians.

The recreation and entertainment industry lost 8.1% of its employment between October and November, due to a loss of 35,400 part-time jobs and a small gain in full-time positions. Following a 15.6% loss of employment between September and October, the accommodation industry lost an additional 1,300 positions in November. The food and beverage services industry lost 31,600 jobs in November, the second month in a row in which employment losses in that industry exceeded 30,000 positions.

November did see some employment gains in tourism industries: transportation gained 23,500 jobs and travel services gained 7,200 jobs.

Because the industry groups that make up tourism are different sizes, looking at the monthly change in employment as a percentage change relative to the previous month provides a more equitable picture of how each industry is doing. It also helps illustrate the size of the employment increases, relative to the employment decreases that occurred in past months.

Following two months of employment losses, the accommodation industry has lost the greatest percentage of employment relative to February, down 27.1% since the start of the pandemic. Despite having come close to getting back to February employment levels in August, the recreation and entertainment industry in November had 23.2% fewer workers than it did at the start of the pandemic. Even with two months of employment gains, the travel services industry still has 23.2% fewer employed workers than in February. Compared to February, food and beverage services employment was down 19.2% and transportation down 15.1%.

On a year-over-year basis, seasonally unadjusted employment across all Canadian industries was down 3.2% from November 2019. In comparison, tourism employment was down 22.3% from the same month a year ago. Employment losses in tourism currently make up 75% of all year-over-year employment losses. By industry group, year-over-year employment losses in November ranged from -37.4% in accommodations to -13.5% in transportation.

Unlike last month, when employment losses were concentrated in Quebec, most provinces saw a loss of tourism employment in November. The greatest loss occurred in Manitoba (-13,900), followed by Quebec (-11,400) and Ontario (-10,200). The decline in Manitoba is particularly notable as it represents a loss of 22.6% of tourism employment compared to October.

Employment in most provinces remains below 2019 levels. In November, on a year-over-year basis, the greatest employment losses have been in Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Quebec. The labour force data for November shows that tourism employment in Prince Edward Island is the same as last year. The labour force survey data can have a high degree of variability in smaller provinces. However, it is possible that due to the seasonal nature of that province’s tourism sector, local demand is sustaining employment at usual levels.

Tourism Unemployment Rate

In November 2020, the unemployment rate in the tourism sector was at 13.9%, which is 8.6 percentage points higher than the rate reported in November 2019, but lower than the previous month (October 2020), when the unemployment rate stood at 14.5%. At 13.9%, tourism’s unemployment rate was above Canada’s seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate of 8.0%.

All tourism industry groups have reported higher unemployment rates than the same month last year.

The tourism unemployment rate decreased despite a loss of employment. Although the number of employed individuals decreased, so did the number of unemployed individuals. The unemployment rate is calculated by taking the labour force (the total of employed and unemployed individuals) and dividing it by the number of unemployed persons whose last job was in the tourism sector. While the number of employed individuals decreased by 34,400 in November, the number of individuals considered unemployed also decreased, by 19,600. This implies two possibilities:

  1. Some of those who lost employment in November had not yet started to look for new work and were therefore not counted as unemployed.
  2. Individuals who had been unemployed in October either found work in another industry or stopped looking for work entirely. In either case, they would no longer be counted as unemployed tourism workers.

Unemployment Rate
Tourism Industry Group[1]

November 2019

October 2020

November 2020

Tourism 5.3% 14.5% 13.9%
Accommodations 8.6% 20.5% 23.6%
Food & Beverage Services 4.8% 13.4% 13.5%
Recreation & Entertainment 7.2% 16.4% 13.3%
Transportation 2.8% 11.0% 10.5%
Travel Services 4.5% 23.5% 19.4%

On a provincial basis, tourism unemployment rates ranged from 6.4% in Nova Scotia to 18.1% in Prince Edward Island.

The seasonally unadjusted unemployment rates for tourism in each province, with the exception of Newfoundland and Labrador, were above the rates reported for the provincial economy.

Shrinking Tourism Workforce

Since 2001, the average yearly decline in tourism employment from July to November has been 2.2%. This year, the decline during the same period has been smaller because continued reopening during the summer drove employment higher in August and September. However, the employment declines in October and November have been greater than they usually are.

Average Monthly Employment Change in Tourism (2001-2019 vs. 2020)

Average Monthly Employment Change 2001 to 2019 Monthly Employment Change 2020
August -0.6% 3.2%
September -5.6% 0.2%
October -0.8% -4.1%
November -1.8% -2.1%

Seasonally unadjusted data from the labour force survey shows that overall employment in Canada is still 300,000 jobs lower than it was in February[2]. Employment within the tourism sector in November was 410,000 jobs lower than it was in February. The fact that employment losses in tourism have now exceed the total employment losses in the economy suggests that former tourism employees are either dropping out of the labour force (i.e., not seeking employment) or have found employment in other industries.

Further investigation is needed to determine exactly what is happening to these tourism workers. It is difficult to draw strong conclusions due the labour market volatility being created by Canada’s second wave of COVID-19, and the resulting second wave of business restrictions. For example, the decrease in unemployed workers may be partly due to laid-off workers waiting to return to their jobs once restrictions lift, rather than seeking new employment.

Still, we do know that some sectors have gained employment through the pandemic while others have not. Construction, wholesale trade, the professional/scientific sector, and education services, among other sectors, have all gained employment since February, while for other sectors employment is below where it was in February. Tourism-related industries remain the hardest hit by far. The decline in the overall unemployment rate suggests at least some workers are moving to those industries less affected by the pandemic.


[1] 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.
[2] Seasonally adjusted employment is still 573,800 jobs lower than it was in February.

Canada’s LGBT+ Chamber of Commerce (CGLCC), in collaboration with Tourism HR Canada and with thanks to funding from the Government of Canada, is developing a comprehensive LGBT+ Safe Space Accreditation Pilot Program aiming to help businesses, organizations and communities certify their status as LGBT+ friendly.

Applications are currently open to participate in the LGBT+ Safe Space Accreditation Pilot Program. You can choose to participate in one of two ways:

Participate as a Field Test Applicant

Businesses of any size, community organizations, and government agencies are encouraged to apply as Field Test Applicants. Applicants will receive a complimentary one-year CGLCC membership. (Applicants that are currently members of CGLCC will receive a free one-year renewal.)

The deadline to apply has been extended to January 13, 2021. Click here to apply.

Participate as a Field Test Assessor

Individuals who possess experience in the following areas are encouraged to apply to participate as a Field Test Assessor:
• experience in program or training assessment;
• knowledge of human resource issues and inclusion best practices;
• understanding or experience of challenges facing LGBT+ customers;
• time and project management skills; and
• strong writing, research and communications skills.

Field Test Assessors will receive the following compensation for their participation:
• $250 plus applicable HST per applicant assessment upon submission of the final assessment documentation with comments and recommendations
• $50 plus applicable HST per one-hour training session
• $50 plus applicable HST per per applicant final report with feedback on the results from the field test

The deadline to apply has been extended to January 13, 2021. Click here to apply.

Workforce Power Session, the fifth and final 2020 session in our series of free webinars designed for business owners, operators, and entrepreneurs, is now available for viewing.

This webinar will help employers navigate challenging staffing issues, exploring ways to recalibrate the staffing structure, plans to help employees transition back to work or new roles, and best practices to support employees with managing difficult circumstances such as transitioning to different jobs or coping with mental health needs.

Watch the Workforce Power Session webinar here.

Download the presentation slides here.

The webinar series features topics from Each one-hour session will include practical information and guidance on how to address issues that will help businesses recover, sustain operations, and be more resilient.

View all webinar recordings here.

Although labour is not at the forefront of many agendas right now—where liquidity and financial relief must remain the priority since they are the lifeline keeping businesses open—the fact is that the workforce is a monumental and complex challenge that will soon take centre stage.

Prior to the World Health Organization announcing the pandemic in mid March, Canada’s tourism sector was showing promising growth, poised for a record summer, with more than 2.1 million workers—our highest number ever. Within 10 weeks we lost 881,700 workers, and by the end of summer, 310,000 of those workers had not returned to jobs. By October, we started to shed workers again—with 375,000 displaced. The next few months will show a continued loss of workers.

Prior to COVID, more than ever, tourism employers were reporting shortages of skilled labour, which was affecting the bottom-line. Currently, most tourism employers are struggling financially and cannot afford to retain all workers. Although paradoxical, the challenge remains the same: the lack of workers is attributing to hampered growth, inflationary pressures, higher operating costs, and reduced productivity, and is eroding the quality of the workplace. Not having enough workers or ones with the right skills impacts the ability of tourism businesses—and the industry overall—to recover. The diminished capacity will delay recovery and mean there are fewer tourism products and services available.

As we move into a more aggressive recovery mode, our projections suggest greater labour and skills shortages than pre-COVID. One way to help mitigate this is to start investing—now—in programs and strategies to retain and bring back more workers. This requires government aid; businesses cannot do this on their own. The longer the workers are displaced, the greater the shortfall will be. They will move on to other jobs, many will retire, and attracting people to this sector will be a great challenge. It is now perceived as more precarious and perhaps unsafe work.

Recently announced Government of Canada programs—the Enhancing Canada Summer Jobs Funding and the Youth Employment Skills Strategy—may help address some of the shortfall of workers. Both programs aim to get young people in the workforce at times when the industry needs them most. The industry’s focus must now be on securing tourism as a priority for initiatives funded by these programs. As one of the hardest-hit sectors, tourism should be singled out specially to help marginalized groups gain meaningful and accessible employment.

For a closer look at the main workforce challenges facing the sector and ways to help address them, sign up for this month’s Workforce Power Session webinar.

Safety, through the freedom to be oneself, is the key factor in Canadian LGBT+ travellers’ destination choice. That’s why the Government of Canada is investing in the National LGBT+ Tourism Project—a set of inclusion workshops and market-ready seminars—to support the industry in fostering welcoming destinations across the country.

On top of the workshops and seminars, Tourism HR Canada, in partnership with Canada’s LGBT+ Chamber of Commerce (CGLCC), has been developing diversity and inclusion support tools to further assist tourism businesses with reaching this market.

This new Toolbox of Resources will be launched and available free of charge to all participants of the National LGBT+ Tourism Project. If you have attended or would like to participate in the inclusion workshops and/or market-ready seminars, these resources will be made available to you in the coming weeks.

We’ll launch with three resources, and by February 2021, there will be a total of ten resources available for download in English and French. These guides are 15+ pages and contain a deeper dive into specific diversity and inclusion topics to help welcome LGBT+ customers, as well as employees.

Here is a complete list of the Toolbox of Resources:

  1. Inclusive Procurement Guide
  2. A Guide for Developing LGBT+ Products and Tours
  3. Trans & Non-Binary Inclusion Guide
  4. Business Case for LGBT+ Inclusion
  5. Hosting LGBT+ Inclusive Events
  6. Developing an LGBT+ Diversity and Inclusion Strategy
  7. Becoming an Ally
  8. Starting an Employee Resource Group
  9. Building Community Engagement
  10. Marketing to an LGBT+ Traveller

Instructions on how to access these free resources will be sent to all program participants.

If you have not attended one of our online workshops or seminars, it’s not too late! We have free registration live now through the end of January.

Please visit the CGLCC’s website to register, or contact if you’d like to set up a private workshop/seminar for you and your staff or stakeholders.

Future Skills Framework LogoTourism HR Canada has now held over 50 sessions with industry professionals from across the country to review individual skills—or competencies—required across tourism, as part of the Future Skills Framework project.

We now have a fully validated framework, marking an important milestone in the project.

These individual competencies will be the ‘building blocks’ for a wide variety of occupational charts: a comprehensive set of skills that define a particular occupation. These charts will form the backbone of new National Occupational Standards, upon which all our Emerit certification and training is based.

We are now inviting industry professionals across a wide range of occupations to join us in reviewing these occupational charts on Zoom from 1:00 PM to 3.30 PM Eastern Time.

Please RSVP to if you have experience in the following occupations and want to join us on the listed date:

  • Dec 4: Tourism Visitor Information Counsellor
  • Dec 8: Housekeeping Room Attendant & Director of Housekeeping
  • Dec 10: Kitchen Helper, Line Cook, Food Counter Attendant
  • Dec 17: Food and Beverage Manager

Places are limited and will be allocated on a first come, first served basis.

If you know of others who would like to be involved in this key phase of the project, please share this article with them.

By Joe Baker, Tourism HR Canada Board Member and OTEC Strategic Advisor

Originally published in Canadian Lodging News

People have always been the core of Canada’s hospitality and tourism industry. While the COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating economic effect on our businesses, it has had an equally profound impact on the lives of the people of our industry – our workforce.  Here are three digital destinations that have come alive to support workers and the workforce itself.

Tourism & Hospitality Emergency Response

Summary: The Tourism and Hospitality Emergency Response (THER) is a job recovery initiative led by the Ontario Tourism Education Corporation (OTEC) and funded by the Government of Canada’s Future Skills Centre and the Government of Ontario.

Features: This site is full of resources for affected workers from across all Provinces and Territories. It features the ability for workers to join a registry that gives them access to regular updates, a community of like-minded people and ultimately referrals into local employment service providers where they have the potential to access training and job portals.  It also features a short survey that will ensure the resources and tools are designed to meet the needs of affected workers.

Tourism Workforce Recovery Toolkit

Summary: Tourism HR Canada’s Tourism Workforce Recovery Toolkit is a practical, no-cost web program designed to help tourism operators succeed during this unprecedented crisis – now and into the future. Drawing from a myriad of public-domain, academic and business resources, this Toolkit – which includes presentations, checklists and downloadable content – will be frequently updated to support tourism operators at every stage of their journey.

Features: This toolkit includes five content modules, more than 60 resource components and more than 30 practical checklists. While this site is targeted at tourism business operators, its distinct workforce focus makes it a rich source of information and learning potential for hospitality workers. Of note, Tourism HR Canada hosts regular free webinars, some which can be found on this site, and are a wealth of current information and tools.


Summary: Not 9 to 5 is a new not-for-profit organization brought to life by hospitality and tourism industry leaders to help address high rates of mental health challenges and substance use across Canada’s hospitality and tourism industry.  Research shows that mental health education and training can save lives, and so this group has launched CNECTing, a platform to distribute educational courses and bring the hospitality, food and beverage community together to address this emergency. CNECTing stands for Change Needs Everyone Coming Together.

Features: The site is full of mental health resources, previously recorded live events discussing mental health, and their first course called Primary Concerns. This course is focused on the industry’s mental health primary concerns and will educate and train it’s learners in mental health and substance use support skills to identify, understand and respond to crisis situations.

If you are a business operator and can share these resources with any workers affected by the pandemic, please distribute widely. And if you yourself are someone who has been laid-off or let-go by your employer as a result of the pandemic, take as much time as you need and take as much learning as you can from these thoughtfully curated hubs of content designed just for you.

Joe Baker is an innovative leader of Canadian hospitality and tourism education and workforce development. He is President of Joe Baker Consulting Inc., a full-service tourism industry consultancy focused on strategy, coaching, training and talent. Joe can be found everywhere @thejoebaker.