Month: January 2021

2021 is the start of a long recovery for the tourism industry, and it will be hampered by a shortfall of workers.

The sector has faced a very difficult year and the long road to recovery will continue to be difficult to navigate. 2021 looks promising, filled with renewed hope and optimism especially now that vaccines are available. Government relief programs have been a true lifeline for many businesses. The reliance on these programs and the need for additional supports—including those tied to the workforce—will be especially important for recovery.

The federal government announced sector-specific support measures in the Fall Economic Statement (presented on November 30), and we are anticipating additional measures along with a new Tourism Recovery Strategy. Provincial and national tourism associations continue to be responsive as they recalibrate recovery strategies and anticipate further programs to help tourism businesses remain solvent and, increasingly, to help businesses evolve and learn to thrive in a new economic reality. Tourism HR Canada’s focus has been on the workforce and what’s needed to help develop a dynamic, inclusive, and resilient workforce.

Tourism HR Canada has been looking closely at the impacts of COVID on the workforce, and the fallout on GDP and consumer confidence. Our other research is focused on labour projections based on COVID recovery scenarios. The data is informing new recommendations on policies and programs to help the sector restart its workforce, captured in four themes: Skills, Supply, Sentiment, and Strategy.

Investments in skills are essential. Businesses must optimize their workforce by ensuring workers are versatile and adaptable to a range of work contexts, equipped with transferable skills and new skills that enable businesses to transform their business and operational models. In 2021, Tourism HR Canada will be expanding its online free training for businesses, along with additional resources and tools to help owners or operators tackle new operational challenges. Industry is asking for assistance with product development, business innovation, use and integration of new technology (operational/staff, consumer support, social media), strategies for business stability and risk management, and much more.

Tourism is facing staggering employment losses that far exceed the overall economy, and projections suggest that these losses will hamper the ability of the sector to rebound and recover from COVID.

The shortfall of workers will be a great challenge. New strategies and government support will be needed to help strengthen worker retention strategies. In addition to continued wage subsidies that help hold on to workers, the sector must focus on recalling furloughed workers and seeking to attract new workers. Although it may seem premature to start expanding on the supply of workers while many businesses remain shuttered or at reduced capacity, the sector must have ready, skilled workers that can quickly be deployed to help it respond to market demands. The longer the delay in rebuilding the supply of qualified workers, the more difficult and increasingly competitive it will be to attract workers. A shortfall of workers impacts the ability of businesses to meet visitor demand, both in terms of capacity and quality of services.

Research is also indicating that consumer/public and worker sentiment is waning. Tourism employment is viewed as precarious, risky, and unsafe. Increasingly, communities are skeptical of tourists and uncertain if the economic and social benefits of tourism outweigh the risks. In 2021, Tourism HR Canada continues to seek funding to help businesses demonstrate good practices that will also increase consumer/public confidence, as well as investments in an employment campaign to promote careers in tourism.

Workforce recovery is also tied closely to strengthened coordination that brings together all stakeholders and optimizes the use of resources. Tourism HR Canada is committed to providing the most comprehensive and current labour market intelligence to inform investments in recovery strategies, workforce programs (e.g., training, retention, attraction), and public policy.

Join us this Friday, January 15, at 2 PM Eastern for a webinar exploring the most up-to-date data on workforce trends, what to anticipate for labour challenges over the next year, and recommendations on policies and programs to help the sector restart its workforce.

We have a lot planned for this year and we’re all going to have work especially hard at tackling the difficult recovery efforts, but it will all be worthwhile.

Wishing you all a very happy, healthy, and prosperous new year.

Philip Signature

Philip Mondor, President and CEO

Tourism HR Canada

Tourism HR Canada has been tracking the impacts of COVID on the tourism workforce, and the fallout on GDP and consumer confidence. Other research in collaboration with the Conference Board focuses on labour projections: by sector, by region, and more. Tourism is facing staggering employment losses that far exceed the overall economy, and projections suggest these losses will hamper the sector’s ability to rebound and recover from COVID.

Join us this Friday, January 15, at 2 PM Eastern for Workforce Shortfall, our first webinar of 2021. We’ll explore the most up-to-date data on workforce trends, what to anticipate for labour challenges over the next year, and recommendations on policies and programs to help the sector restart its workforce. The session will be one hour in duration.

To see our previous ‘state of the workforce’ update, please visit our YouTube channel.

Click here to register for the Workforce Shortfall (And What It Takes to Restart Canada’s Tourism Workforce) webinar.

Nearly 90% of Year-Over-Year Employment Losses in Tourism

Tourism employment decreased for the third month in a row in December, falling by 56,700, a 3.5% decrease from November. (Data is from the week of December 6 to 12.)

Tourism employment decreased in all provinces except in Quebec, where employment essentially flat, increasing by a miniscule 200 (or 0.1%), and in New Brunswick (1,600). The biggest drops occurred in Alberta (-18,400), Ontario (-17,500), and Nova Scotia (-9,700). Nova Scotia’s decrease is notable as it is a 20.6% decrease in employment relative to November. The decrease is similar in size to the employment drop that occurred in Manitoba this November. Similar drops may be seen in the January data for Ontario and Quebec.


  • Tourism employment declined by 56,700 in December, a decline of 3.5% from November.
  • On a year-over-year basis, seasonally unadjusted employment across all Canadian industries was down 3.1% compared to December 2019. In comparison, tourism employment was down 24.9% from the same month a year ago.
  • The largest monthly drops in employment occurred in Alberta (-18,400), Ontario (-17,500), and Nova Scotia (-9,700).
  • At 14.6%, tourism’s unemployment rate was above Canada’s seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate of 8.0%.
  • December is the fourth month in a row in which the tourism labour force declined.

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 December, employment (unadjusted for seasonality) across the entire Canadian economy decreased by 113,900. Overall, tourism employment dropped by 56,700 jobs due to a loss of 40,500 full-time jobs and 16,000 part-time jobs.

From November to December, employment declined in the accommodation (-5.4%), food and beverage services (-3.2%), recreation and entertainment (-5.6%), and transportation (-2.3%) industry groups. Only the travel services industry added employment, although that was caused by a loss of 3,400 full-time jobs being offset by a gain of 6,100 part time jobs.

In December 2020, tourism employed 1,568,300 workers, a quarter fewer than in December 2019, when the sector employed almost 2.1 million people.

In the food and beverage services industry group, employment decreased by 25,100, the largest drop among tourism industry groups. It was closely followed by recreation and entertainment, where employment was down 20,400. In those industries, both full-time and part-time employment decreased.

Despite adding some part-time jobs, overall employment continued to drop in the accommodation industry, which has seen monthly employment declines since August.

Employment in the transportation industry fell 7,300, while employment in the travel services industry increased 2,700, the third month of employment increases in that industry. Despite losing the greatest share of employment during the spring, travel services employment has now almost recovered to March levels.

Because the industry groups that make up tourism are different sizes, looking at the monthly change in employment as a percentage increase or decrease relative to the previous month provides a more equitable picture of how each industry is recovering. It also helps illustrate the size of the employment increase or decrease relative to total employment within a given industry group. Among industry groups, the transportation industry has lost the least employment relative to February 2020, down 17.1%.

In the initial months of the pandemic, the travel services industry lost the greatest percentage of employment. Employment in that industry group dropped even further in August and September, following a mild recovery in June and July. In September, employment in travel services was 50% lower than it had been in February. However, following three months of increases, employment is now only 18.8% lower than at the start of pandemic.

As of December, the accommodation industry has now lost the greatest percentage of employment relative to February. Despite employment gains between May and August, the end of the summer tourism season has resulted in ongoing losses in employment. Occupancy rates in Canada peaked at 42.9% the week ending August 22 and have declined ever since, reaching 23.5% the week ending December 19 and falling below 20% over the Christmas holiday. Accommodation employment is now down 33.1% since the start of the pandemic.

Despite having come close to getting back to February employment levels in August, the recreation and entertainment industry had 27.5% fewer workers in December than it did at the start of the pandemic. Some of the employment losses in recreation are to be expected, however, as seasonal operations such as golf courses close.

The food and beverage services industry group also saw its third month of employment decreases. While this industry usually sheds some employment in the fall, continued losses into November and December this year have greatly exceeded what would normally be expected. Following the pandemic, food and beverage sales peaked at $5.5 billion in August, but then declined to $4.85 billion in October. October sales were $1.76 billion lower than they were one year prior and are expected to drop further in November and December due to tightening restrictions.

On a year-over-year basis, seasonally unadjusted employment across all Canadian industries was down 3.1% compared to December 2019. In comparison, tourism employment was down 24.9% from the same month a year ago. Tourism’s employment decrease currently makes up 87.9% of all year-over-year employment losses. By industry group, year-over-year employment losses in December ranged from -36.5% in accommodations to -15.4% in transportation.

Employment losses due to COVID-19 have not been evenly spread across the economy. Tourism industries employed 10% of Canadian workers before the pandemic, but a much greater share of COVID-19 related employment declines occurred within the sector. Tourism employment losses made up half of year-over-year employment losses in March, as tourism businesses were among the first to be forced to close and to see demand dry up as international borders were closed. In the following two months, many other industries closed or lost demand for their products, and tourism’s share of total employment losses decreased, even as the number of unemployed tourism workers grew.

As restrictions were loosened, the share of year-over-year employment decreases attributable to the tourism sector began to grow once more. While other industries were able to reopen, many tourism businesses remained closed. Once the summer ended, tourism’s share of total year-over-year employment losses ballooned, only falling slightly in December as restrictions once again began to affect industries such as retail.

Most provinces saw a loss of tourism employment in December. The largest drop in employment occurred in Alberta, Ontario, and Nova Scotia. Manitoba also experienced a significant drop considering that it followed a 22.6% drop in employment in November.

In all provinces, tourism employment was well below that seen in December 2019. On a year-over-year basis, the greatest employment losses were in Saskatchewan, Alberta, and Manitoba. Employment was closer to last year’s levels in Atlantic Canada, with the exception of Nova Scotia.

Tourism Unemployment Rate

In December 2020, the unemployment rate in the tourism sector was at 14.6%, which is 10 percentage points higher than the rate reported in December 2019 and higher than the previous month (November 2020), when the unemployment rate stood at 13.9%.

At 14.6%, 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. In December, the tourism unemployment rate increased due to an increase in the number of unemployed tourism workers and a decrease in the overall tourism labour force. 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 tourism workers decreased by 56,700 in December, the number of unemployed individuals only rose by 5,600. The tourism labour force decreased by 51,200, indicating that most individuals who had lost their jobs had not yet started seeking other work. This is likely due to COVID-19 restrictions that make seeking new employment difficult.

Unemployment Rate
Tourism Industry Group[1]

December 2019

November 2020

December 2020

Tourism 4.6% 13.9% 14.6%
Accommodations 6.4% 23.6% 27.6%
Food & Beverage Services 4.0% 13.5% 13.6%
Recreation & Entertainment 7.0% 13.3% 16.7%
Transportation 2.7% 10.5% 9.2%
Travel Services 0.0% 19.4% 11.0%

On a provincial basis, tourism unemployment rates ranged from 7.7% in British Columbia to 33.7% 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 October, declines in tourism employment have greatly exceeded the sector’s average monthly declines.

Figure 11: 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%
December 0.2% -3.5%

December is the fourth month in a row in which the tourism labour force declined. Some decline is to be expected in September and October, as student workers return to school. Ongoing losses into November and December are more concerning. The fall labour force decline usually slows in November and December. Although the current decline is likely due to unemployed tourism workers not seeking new employment due to labour market conditions, the overall tourism labour market never fully rebounded to 2019 levels.

Total Actual Hours Worked by Sector

Despite December’s drop in employment, the total actual hours worked increased by 3.4% from November to December. Increases in actual hours worked occurred in most sectors, the notable exceptions being agriculture (-11.2%), accommodation and food services (-7.1%), and business, building and other support services (-2.9%).

While the total actual hours worked increased from November to December, Canadians are still working fewer hours than in February. But the story varies by sector. In some industries, employment has increased and Canadians are working more hours than in February. However, those sectors that are still below February levels in terms of employment and hours of work are well below where they were, clearly showing how the economic pain is not evenly spread. The number of actual hours worked in tourism-related sectors continues to be well below normal levels. In December, accommodation and food services employees worked 21.7 million hours, 10 million fewer than they worked in February.

Workers in the information, culture and recreation sector worked slightly more hours than in November, but still worked 2.5 million fewer hours than in February.

Where to From Here?

The past year was nothing short of catastrophic for the tourism industry.

We enter the new year assessing where we are and looking forward.

Secondary lockdowns in response to rising COVID-19 case counts are needed, but are punishing. No clear timetable is yet discernable for a resumption of international travel to Canada, which now seems dependent on how quickly vaccines can be made available, particularly to contain the spread of new, more transmissible strains of the virus.

The current situation is grim and highly volatile. Yet, the availability of vaccines does mean an eventual reopening of local consumption, domestic travel, and ultimately international travel. As a sector, we need to start preparing for that future. It will a brighter day, but it will come with its own challenges.

[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.

Are you an employer in the tourism and hospitality sector? We need your input to help shape the future of our post-pandemic workforce.

As we enter a new year and reflect on the devastating and lasting effect that COVID-19 has had on our industry, it’s now time to look forward to the future resiliency of our workforce. How will the landscape change post-pandemic? How will we attract and retain skilled workers? How will the sector rise above perceived stigma?

Tourism HR Canada, MDB Insights, and OTEC invite you to express your interest in participating in a cross-country focus group to be held in February. Feedback will assist in predicting future challenges faced by the sector and recommendations on how to overcome them.

In order to understand the specific challenges you will face post-pandemic and how we can best support you, we need to hear from employers across the tourism and hospitality spectrum. Employers from all five distinct industry groups within the sector are encouraged to participate: accommodation, food and beverage services, recreation and entertainment, transportation, and travel services.

Register here to be considered for participation in an online focus group for your province (schedule below.) While we will involve as many individuals as possible, we will select a representative sample of the industry from those who register.

Please note, cross-Canada focus groups for current and former tourism employees will be held at a later date. Study results will be presented at Tourism HR Canada’s March Labour Market Forum.

Newfoundland, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island (English)

Date: Thursday, February 4, 2021

Time: 12:30 PM-2:00 PM Eastern (1:30 PM-3:00 PM Atlantic, 2:00 PM-3:30 PM Nfld.)

British Columbia (English)

Date: Thursday, February 4, 2021
Time: 2:00 PM-3:30 PM Eastern (11:00 AM-12:30 PM Pacific)

Ontario, Quebec (English)

Date: Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Time: 12:00 PM-1:30 PM Eastern

Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, Territories (English)

Date: Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Time: 2:00 PM-3:30 PM Eastern (1:00 PM-2:30 PM Central, 12:00 PM-1:30 PM Mountain)

Quebec (French)

Date: Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Time: 3:30 PM-5:00 PM Eastern

For further information, please contact:

Ramon Smits, Tourism HR Canada,, 613-231-6949 x 258

Shelagh O’Donnell, Director, Marketing Communications, OTEC,, 416-622-1975

Future Skills Framework LogoTourism HR Canada is extremely grateful for all the industry professionals who have shared insights into their occupations over the past few months, enabling us to build new occupational standards using the Future Skills Framework. The framework and these standards will help Canada’s tourism sector align the current and future skills of individuals in the labour market with the changing nature of work across tourism’s industries.

For a number of sessions over the coming month, we invite anyone with experience in the following occupations to join us to set new national standards:

  • Reservation Sales Agent: Thursday, January 21st
  • Food Counter Attendant: Tuesday, January 26th
  • Freshwater Fishing Guide/Hunting Guide: Thursday, January 28th

All sessions will take place from 1:00 PM – 3.30 PM EST on Zoom.

Places are allocated on a first-come, first-served basis, so if you are interested, please send your RSVP to as soon as possible.

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.

These free online training events are taking place now through to the end of March.

On top of the workshops and seminars, Tourism HR Canada and CGLCC, Canada’s LGBT+ Chamber of Commerce, have 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.

There will be a total of ten resources available for download in English and French:

  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

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

If you haven’t yet signed up, 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.

Tourism jobs are defined by two numbers and both are from Statistics Canada—so why the two numbers and how is there a difference of over a million jobs?

The first number, 747,950, is based on tourism demand; in other words, it’s based on visitor spending. This number comes from the National Tourism Indicators (NTI), which covers the supply of tourism commodities (a tangible good or service, such as transportation, that can be bought and sold) and the demand for those commodities from foreign and domestic tourists. The NTI measures employment and GDP generated from visitor spending, and was developed to update the Canadian Tourism Satellite Account on a quarterly basis. This includes visitor spending on activities that are not limited to tourism businesses, such as money spent by visitors at gas stations or in retail stores. This number is a good measure of the impact of tourists on employment in the Canadian economy and is used to help determine, for example, whether marketing strategies are effective.

However, most tourism industries also provide goods and services to people who are not tourists. Restaurants and recreation venues such as golf courses and ski hills are part of the tourism sector because about 20% of demand for their products and services comes from visitor spending. Without tourists, these industries would suffer a significant hit to their bottom line. To measure overall employment in tourism industries, we need data that accounts for this.

The second jobs number, 1.9 million, is data from the Tourism Human Resource Module from Statistics Canada, an extension of the Tourism Satellite Account. This includes comprehensive data on the tourism workforce, with information on jobs, hours, earnings, occupations, worker demographics, and more. The information is defined by the five tourism industries: accommodation, food and beverage services, recreation and entertainment, transportation, and travel services.

TL;DR: 1.9 million is the number of jobs in tourism industries, whereas 747,950 is the number of jobs that exist due to visitor spending in all industries.


We focus on the 1.9 million number when concerned with workforce issues because:

  • it’s an indication of the overall health or capacity of the sector and its ability to serve tourists (and Canadians);
  • businesses manage and invest in their workers to serve both visitors and locals (i.e., they treat all workers the same); and
  • as tourism recovers and the workforce restarts, this number will be very important, especially with the focus on hyper-local and local markets.

Check out this article to get a more detailed understanding of the three datasets— Census, Tourism Human Resource Module, and Labour Force Survey—that define tourism jobs and employees: Numbers Game: Defining Tourism Employment Stats.