Month: January 2021

In 2017, Tourism HR Canada published the results of a survey asking Canadians about their perceptions of the tourism sector as a place of work. It showed that Canadians viewed many aspects of tourism positively, but held negative views as well. Many respondents had positive perceptions of tourism and would recommend it as a place of employment. However, the survey results also pointed to challenges for the sector. Widespread negative perceptions regarding wages and careers presented a significant challenge to attracting people to tourism employment.

Jump forward four years, and tourism is the industry hardest hit by COVID-19. In December 2020, the sector employed 450,000 fewer tourism workers than before the pandemic. The number of active tourism businesses operating in October was 8,300 fewer than one year prior. Employers are concerned about their business’s future viability, and employees are worried about their job’s future viability. A people-centric sector, most tourism jobs require face-to-face contact with customers and other employees. Although tourism businesses have not been a major vector of infection thanks to stringent protocols, tourism employees cannot work from home. The potential for infection is there.

In light of this, it was time to assess how COVID-19 has affected Canadians’ perceptions of tourism as an industry and as a place to work and build a career.

Leger conducted two surveys on behalf of Tourism HR Canada. One surveyed 1,500 Canadians on their general sentiments towards tourism as an economic driver for Canada and their community. The second, a web survey of 5,055 Canadians, ran from November 6 to November 29, 2020. Sampling included representation from key target audiences of young people, Indigenous Canadians, visible minorities, and new immigrants.

Resident Sentiment Survey

The sentiment survey found that Canadians are receptive to tourism as a driver of the economy. They want visitors to come to Canada and have an enjoyable experience, and they enjoy making visitors feel welcome.

Nearly nine in ten Canadians believe that the tourism industry is important to their province and Canada’s economic well-being. Conversely, fewer Canadians see the economic benefits of tourism to their community. But a majority still believe it is important.

While overall sentiment toward the sector is generally positive, the pandemic has had an impact; a little over one-third of Canadians reported that their perceptions of the tourism industry have become increasingly negative since the beginning of the pandemic.

A minority of Canadians also believe that the current number of visitors is putting too much pressure on Canada’s society, infrastructure, and environment (an increase of five percentage points since 2017). When Canadians were asked four years ago why visitors were a source of pressure, many issues were cited, with no single issue more prominent than any other. In the 2020 survey, the possible spread of COVID-19 was far and away the most cited reason for tourism creating pressure on society.

With vaccines being delivered, travel demand will start to recover in 2021. Due to pent-up demand, an initial surge could occur when people can first travel freely. In the late fall of 2020, we projected that the number of full-year tourism jobs could rebound to 1.65 million in 2021. Whether the sector will have enough workers to fill these jobs upon recovery is another question. The industry has lost hundreds of thousands of workers. Many are still unemployed, but others have sought and found work in other sectors.

Download the 2020 Resident Sentiment Survey Results

Assessing Perceptions of Tourism as a Place of Employment in Canada

The sentiment towards tourism as a place of work has also taken a negative turn.

The second of the two surveys took a detailed look at Canadians’ perceptions of tourism as a place of work. Leger surveyed five thousand Canadians in November. Twenty percent of respondents had worked in the tourism sector in the past, and six percent were currently working in the sector.

On the positive side, Canadians see working in tourism as an invaluable opportunity to learn a range of soft skills—skills that are important regardless of the career path one takes. For those interested in our sector as a place of work, social interaction was a key attractor.

Results revealed that 46% of respondents would recommend a career in tourism to family/friends, which is a drop of 16 percentage points since 2017 when 62% of Canadians said they would recommend tourism as a career.

In our 2017 survey, we found that respondents who had worked in tourism were more likely to recommend a career in tourism (68%) than those who had not worked in tourism (62%).

In the latest study, we saw a similar trend. While only 46% of Canadians are now willing to recommend a career in tourism, 63% of those who work or had worked in tourism would still recommend a tourism career to family/friends. Even though people working in tourism are more likely to say that the pandemic has negatively affected their perception of the industry, they are still willing to recommend the industry as a place of work to others.

Importantly, 17% of those who had worked in tourism strongly agreed with the statement “I view tourism as an excellent career opportunity”, compared to 10% for the overall sample.

But the results show impending challenges when the sector seeks to restart and restaff. Many Canadians were not interested in working in the industry, and earnings potential was a key concern. Fifty percent of respondents noted that they negatively view the tourism industry, with 39% indicating that their perception is more negative than before the COVID-19 pandemic. Among Canadians, the desirability of a career in the sector is also much lower than it was before COVID-19.

Significantly, respondents who had worked in tourism were significantly more likely to indicate that their view of the industry is more negative now (50%). They have less desire to work in tourism. Their perceptions of personal health and safety have been negatively affected, and they feel less comfortable while working. Not surprisingly, their feeling of job security has taken a very significant hit.

We must address the concerns of individuals who have worked in the tourism industry. These individuals serve as ambassadors/spokespeople for the industry. If these individuals have a negative perception of the industry, they may dissuade others from pursuing a career in tourism.

This research indicates that consumer and worker sentiment is waning. Tourism employment is viewed as precarious, risky, and unsafe. While overall sentiment towards tourism is positive, Canadians are more uncertain if the economic and social benefits of tourism outweigh the risks. As we recover, the sector will need to demonstrate good practices that increase consumer confidence, and invest in developing and promoting careers in tourism.

Download Assessing Perceptions of Tourism as a Place of Employment in Canada

Tourism HR Canada is proud to announce its fifth annual Labour Market Forum, taking place March 15 – 18, 2021. The event is a key part of Tourism HR Canada’s aim to create a more resilient and inclusive labour market.

This year’s format will be fully virtual and free of charge. The new format opens the event to a broader audience, allowing for increased stakeholder input and dialogue.

The interactive forum will be built around four pillars: Skills, Supply, Sentiment, and Strategy. These pillars reflect the devastating impact of the COVID pandemic on the tourism sector as well as the need for innovative approaches to restart tourism in the face of dramatic labour losses.

Delegates representing tourism businesses, associations, governments, and the education sector will have the opportunity to define ways to improve workforce strategies, resources, and the capacity to implement them.

Conference Details:

WHAT: Tourism HR Canada’s 2021 Labour Market Forum

WHEN: Monday, March 15 to Thursday, March 18, 2021, with three 45-minute sessions offered between 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. EST

WHO: Delegates representing tourism businesses, associations, governments, and education

WHERE: The virtual event platform will be announced along with the link to register on Tuesday, February 16

RSVP: Registration will be launched Tuesday, February 16. Subscribe to Tourism HR Insider to be notified by email as soon as it opens.

Labour Force Survey Annual Highlights (2020)

COVID-19 has had a massive negative impact on Canadian employment. At its peak, Statistics Canada estimated that over 5 million Canadians had either lost their job or had their working hours reduced by more than 50% due to the pandemic.

COVID-19 hit the tourism sector particularly hard. Before the pandemic, over 2 million Canadians worked in the tourism sector, of whom 880,000 had lost employment by April. And unlike other sectors of the economy, tourism has faced ongoing challenges getting people back to work.

Because tourism has significant seasonal peaks, it can be difficult to tell from monthly data whether the COVID-19 pandemic or seasonal demand is driving employment trends. For example, over the summer months, the travel services industry appeared to have suffered the worst employment losses of any tourism industry (up to 50%). But summer is a period of weak demand for the travel services sector. Conversely, it is a high point for the accommodation industry, which appeared to be doing “relatively” well in terms of employment compared to travel services. Come December, this trend had reversed, with employment in travel services having increased for three consecutive months, while the accommodation sector had suffered three consecutive months of employment decreases.

Annual Labour Force Survey data allows us to evaluate the overall impact COVID-19 had on each tourism industry group in 2020, free of any seasonal variations in the monthly data.

Annual Average Employment by Industry

By this measure, all tourism industries have seen a massive negative impact on employment. The tourism sector employed 464,000 fewer Canadians in 2020 than in 2019, an employment decrease of 22.2%. Annual employment in the tourism sector has not been this low since 2001. Comparatively, overall employment in Canada is down 5.2%.

The accommodation industry was the hardest hit, with employment down 30%, a loss of 56,000 employed workers. The food and beverage services industry lost the greatest number of workers (212,000), with employment falling from 972,500 in 2019 to 760,200 in 2020, a loss of 22%.

The transportation industry group suffered the smallest loss of employment, which was still down over 18% compared to the previous year. On its own, this would be considered a massive hit to employment. Only in comparison to the other tourism industry groups can the transportation industry be described as doing “relatively” well.

It is also worth noting that both the transportation and recreation and entertainment industry groups contain several disparate industries. Within the transportation industry group, employment in rail transportation is “only” down 7.3%, whereas employment in the scheduled air transportation industry is down 34.1%.

By province, employment losses ranged from 27.3% in Saskatchewan to 13.5% in New Brunswick.

Annual Average Unemployment by Industry

Unemployment increased significantly last year. Overall, the monthly unemployment rate peaked in April, declined through the summer, and has moved neither higher nor lower since October. The tourism unemployment rate has followed a similar trend, albeit at a much higher level. The annualized data shows exactly how great the difference has been.

Unemployment levels in the overall economy were 3.8 percentage points higher in 2020 than in 2019, at 9.5%. In contrast, unemployment in the tourism sector was 11.4 percentage points higher than in 2019, at 16.5%. The accommodation industry group had the highest annualized unemployment rate at 22.4%, followed by recreation and entertainment (18.0%), travel services (17.5%), and food and beverage services (17.0%). The transportation industry group had the lowest unemployment rate at 9.7%, but this was still 7.1 percentage points higher than in 2019.

Annual Average Unemployment by Province (Tourism vs. Labour Force)

In every single province, the tourism unemployment rate was higher than the overall unemployment rate. This was a significant reversal from 2019, when tourism unemployment was lower than overall unemployment in every province except Quebec.

Table: Annual Unemployment and Tourism Unemployment Rates by Province

Annual Unemployment Rate Annual Tourism Unemployment Rate
Canada 9.5% 16.5%
 Newfoundland and Labrador 13.7% 15.2%
 Prince Edward Island 10.4% 20.5%
 Nova Scotia 9.6% 13.1%
 New Brunswick 9.8% 13.0%
 Quebec 8.8% 18.6%
 Ontario 9.6% 16.6%
 Manitoba 7.9% 13.6%
 Saskatchewan 8.3% 12.9%
 Alberta 11.3% 15.7%
 British Columbia 8.8% 15.5%

Prince Edward Island had the highest tourism unemployment rate, at 20.5%. Prince Edward Island was also the province with the greatest gap between the overall employment rate (10.4%) and the tourism unemployment rate (20.5%). Saskatchewan saw the lowest tourism unemployment rate, a still very high 12.9%. Despite its relatively low tourism unemployment rate, Saskatchewan suffered the greatest loss of tourism employment as a percentage of 2019 employment levels. While counterintuitive, it may be because Saskatchewan had a weaker increase in tourism employment over the summer months. This suggests a greater likelihood that Saskatchewan tourism workers who lost their jobs in March and April found work in other industries. In turn, that would have brought the monthly tourism unemployment rate down, which in turn affects the yearly average.

National Monthly Unemployment Rate (Tourism vs. Total Labour Force)

The national tourism unemployment rate started the year just 0.1 percentage point lower than the overall unemployment rate. With the pandemic’s outbreak, the tourism unemployment rate exploded, peaking at 29.7% in May. The overall unemployment rate peaked at a high (but much lower) 13.8%. Over the summer, tourism unemployment and overall unemployment dropped, particularly in September. Students exiting the labour force and no longer looking for work would have caused the September drop. Since then, the overall unemployment rate has remained relatively stable. The tourism unemployment rate has shifted up and down in response to renewed COVID-19 restrictions, which have impacted tourism employment much more than overall employment levels.

Annual Unemployment Rate (Tourism vs. Total Labour Force) 1997–2020

Between 2005 and 2008, the tourism unemployment rate closely mirrored that of the Canadian economy. But starting in 2008, those rates diverged. The financial crisis drove up the unemployment rate in all industries, but tourism was less affected than the overall economy. For a decade after the financial crisis, tourism unemployment was consistently about a percentage point lower than the overall unemployment rate. That trend came to a crashing halt last year. Overall, unemployment spiked to 9.5% (higher than at the height of the financial crisis), whereas tourism unemployment soared to 16.5%. In most provinces, the tourism unemployment figures are unprecedented.

Tourism HR Insider subscribers receive monthly estimates of employment and unemployment for each of tourism’s five industry groups and for each province. To sign up, click here.

You can also 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.

Certificate program teaches businesses how to become market ready, free only until March 31, 2021

A recent study by Canada’s LGBT+ Chamber of Commerce (CGLCC) shows that 90 percent of Canadian LGBT+ travellers intend to travel domestically amidst international uncertainty and represent a $12 billion leisure travel opportunity. The CGLCC has partnered with Tourism HR Canada to offer a certificate program that helps businesses realize the economic opportunity of LGBT+ travellers and build LGBT+ safe spaces across the country. The program is free from now until March 31, 2021, thanks to funding provided by the Government of Canada.

“Safety is a key consideration for the LGBT+ community when travelling. In fact, 89% of LGBT+ travellers value safety as a key consideration when choosing a travel destination,” said Darrell Schuurman, Chief Executive Officer of the LGBT+ Chamber of Commerce. “It’s important that businesses better understand how they can make the LGBT+ community feel safe and welcomed. It’s not only the right thing to do, but it also makes good business sense.”

The program is available for any customer-facing professional, management, operators and organizations/associations in the tourism industry. The online courses take less than one day to complete and all participants leave with a certificate.

When: Dates vary per region. Visit the website to find a seminar in your area. The program is only free from now until March 31, 2021.

What: Certificate program and bonus seminar for tourism executives.

  • Certificate Program
    An Introduction to LGBT+ Diversity and Inclusion (Prerequisite; 1-2 hours) AND
    Navigating LGBT+ Diversity and Inclusion in the Tourism Industry (Workshop; 4 hours)
    The prerequisite course is a self-paced online program that will provide a strong foundation for understanding LGBT+ identities. The following workshop is a live facilitated event on Zoom to provide an understanding of different LGBT+ communities and action items to ensure your workplace is an LGBT+ safe space. Visit the website to find a workshop in your region. Both courses are required to receive a certificate.
  • Bonus Seminar for Tourism Executives
    LGBT+ Travel Market-Ready Seminar (2 hours)
    This live, facilitated seminar provides exclusive LGBT+ travel market information, case studies from around the world, and exposes travel executives to a number of custom LGBT+ products to help inspire your own successful LGBT+ tourism-welcoming strategy. Register online for a seminar in your region.

How: Individuals can sign up for a digital course in their area or businesses can contact to organize custom workshops.

About Tourism HR Canada

Tourism HR Canada is a pan-Canadian not-for-profit organization with a mandate aimed at building a world-leading tourism workforce. Tourism HR Canada 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. Tourism HR Canada works on behalf of all constituency groups that make up the tourism sector’s labour market, including employers, labour unions, national and provincial/territorial associations, government, and equity groups.

About Canada’s LGBT+ Chamber of Commerce

Canada’s LGBT+ Chamber of Commerce (CGLCC) links LGBT+ businesses in Canada to the wider business and corporate community. It fosters economic growth by supporting and nurturing LGBT+ businesses, entrepreneurs, students and allies, and by helping Canada’s corporate world connect with the LGBT+ business community.

About the Project

As part of an Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED)-funded initiative, Tourism HR Canada is working with its principal partner, Canada’s LGBT+ Chamber of Commerce (CGLCC), to deliver a responsive, comprehensive and sustainable LGBTQ2 Tourism Market-Ready Program aimed at helping tourism businesses and communities develop a lucrative and fast-growing LGBTQ2 market.

Media Contact

Krystal Carter

(416) 318-4325

As an extension to the Destination Employment Facebook page, Tourism HR Canada and the Hotel Association of Canada (HAC) recently launched a Facebook group exclusively for individuals who’ve participated in the pan-Canadian Destination Employment program.

This alumni group will serve as a networking platform for program graduates who might want to share their experiences as newcomers to Canada and as Destination Employment participants. Amongst other things, the alumni group will offer regular industry news updates, advise of upcoming training programs to further build employability and language skills, share recruitment opportunities across the regions, and seek to engage mentors for future programs with similar offerings. Organizations and employers who were key to the program’s success will be able to offer ongoing guidance and advice to group members.

As this three-year pilot program wraps up March 31, 2021, the project team believes it will be extremely valuable to have a platform where successful program beneficiaries can interact and support for one another in the world of work, particularly as the hospitality industry begins to recover as vaccines are more widely distributed and travel restrictions are gradually lifted.

To join the Destination Employment Alumni Group, please click here.

For more information on the Destination Employment program, please click here.

“All change is hard at first, messy in the middle and gorgeous at the end”. A very pertinent quote for the world we are living in by one of the world’s foremost leadership experts, Canadian author Robin Sharma. We have faced our fair share of ‘hard’ and ‘messy’. Let’s hope ‘gorgeous’ is on its way.

The good news? Whether you have already been immersed in personal or professional change, or if you are newly embarking on a change journey for yourself or for your organization, there are best practices that can guide you along the way. One that has served me well throughout my career is a model developed by Multi Health Systems called Change Navigator. It is a simple and effective blueprint.

MHS Change Navigator ™ Model

There are four steps in this change process. Knowing where you are at any moment in time and knowing where to go next can be really impactful. Remember, it is hard at first and it is messy in the middle so don’t be discouraged. Just keep reflecting on where you are and what actions you can take to move forward. Let’s look at the four steps.

Step 1: Acknowledging

Acknowledging change begins with awareness. In many cases this is also where the process of coping with feelings begins. In the early stages of change, emotions are apparent. This is a very normal part of being human so you should allow yourself or the team you are leading to experience these emotions. Sometimes we rush through this stage, which can appear later in our process as a pitfall. Patience is really critical here. As leaders we should focus on building acceptance and commitment with ourselves and with our teams.

Step 2: Reacting

Reacting is the second step in the change process. It usually comes on its own and can often begin with a change event. Something ‘happens’, and we react. It is also a critical step that requires us to become aware. Are you aware that you are reacting? And even further, are you aware why you are reacting? When you find yourself reacting to change or a change event, try to turn this awareness into progress. Denial is common and natural, which is why information is critical. Leaders should focus on building understanding of the need for change and the scope of the change initiative.

Step 3: Investigating

The step of investigating change is the most pivotal step. It begins after feelings are vetted and allows us to begin the process of exploring options. Anticipation is a common experience during the investigating step. It can start to feel really exciting and hopeful. Honesty is critical both to yourself and to the people you are trying to build change with. This presents a unique opportunity for leaders to focus on building commitment to the new reality. The more we visualize and talk about the outcome, the more real it becomes. This is how we turn hope into results.

 Step 4: Implementing

The fourth and final step in the change process is to move towards implementation. This can only begin once direction has been defined. It is the process of understanding new expectations. This is the critical stage of growth, and learning is absolutely essential. Our hearts and minds have become open to the change and we now have a plan. New skills are essential as we build towards the future. Learning as a group or team, even if just reading together or sharing a digital learning experience, can really boost the all-important element of buy-in. This is the opportunity for leaders to focus on building new skills for themselves and their teams, as well as modelling and rewarding behaviours and norms that suit the future state.

The old adage that change is a natural part of life may feel a little cliché, but for most of us it is a true reflection of our life’s experience. I hope this change model has been helpful and can act as a tool for you and your organization as you navigate the change landscape. Remember, this is a process. It requires re-iteration. Try not to be discouraged for yourself or for anyone on your team who is moving through this process. Instead, try to reflect at any given moment where you are in the four-step process and get back on track.

I started this piece with a quote from Robin Sharma. So, I will end it with another. “Persist. Greatness loves the relentless.”

Joe Baker is President and CEO of Joe Baker & Co., a leadership consultancy focused on strengthening organizations and people at the core of a future-forward hospitality and tourism industry. Joe is a board member of Tourism HR Canada and presently working with the team at OTEC as a Strategic Advisor on the Tourism and Hospitality Emergency Response initiative. You can find Joe everywhere @thejoebaker.

Tourism HR Canada’s latest webinar, Workforce Shortfall – And What It Takes to Restart Canada’s Tourism Workforce, is now available to view.

We have 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 of Canada 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 Tourism HR Canada’s President and CEO Philip Mondor and VP, Labour Market Intelligence, Calum MacDonald for 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.

Click here to watch the webinar recording.

Click here to download the presentation slides.

To access our full range of tourism recovery webinars, please click here.

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.