Month: May 2021

Tourism HR Canada is committed to supporting the people who make our industry shine. As we celebrate their strength and resiliency as they navigate a second pandemic Tourism Week, we will be providing free access to our Emerit online training courses and small business resources from May 23 to 30, 2021.

Developed with industry, these courses can assist with ongoing training needs, as well as giving those whose jobs have been adversely affected by COVID-19 the opportunity to upskill or cross-train. Additionally, Tourism Business Builders and HR Toolkit can help small business owners/operators with reviewing their business models and navigating a new tourism landscape.

With the reopening and recovery of our vibrant tourism sector on the horizon, Tourism HR Canada hopes this offer, along with its free TourismRecovery.ca resource hub, will help equip tourism operators and employees to begin welcoming visitors back to Canada’s unique destinations.

Emerit training included in this free offer (in English and French):

View the offer on emerit.ca.

Tourism businesses are expected to reopen gradually, and as they do things will be different. Not all workers will return, and not all at the same time. Instead, it is more likely that businesses will start with a small number of workers, many part-time, until there is sufficient demand for more workers and the businesses are profitable. In many cases, because of changes in the work environment, the nature of the job will be different and there may be a need for reorientation or new skills training.

Change can be unsettling and cause stress. It is important that tourism operators employ strategies to help employees transition back to work and to new job responsibilities. Ultimately, employers have a need for a more flexible and responsive workforce—one that can respond to evolving workplace and skills demands or severe business disruptions.

To help employers prepare to welcome employees back to work and for the possibility of reassigning workers to new roles, we share here Helping Employees Transition Back to Work or to New Job Roles, one of many checklists available on TourismRecovery.ca, a free resource hub to support the reopening of the visitor economy.

Helping Employees Transition Back to Work or to New Job Roles

WHILE EMPLOYEES ARE AWAY FROM WORK

  • Regularly keep in touch with employees while they are away from work (e.g., temporary layoff, extended leave of absence):
    • Keep them informed on what is happening
    • Answer questions truthfully and respond to possible rumours or misinformation
  • Acknowledge difficulties and limitations because of isolation from colleagues and work:
    • Find out how they are coping and let them know they can reach out for support
    • Promote effective communications—verify they have the rights tools, encourage virtual meetings
    • Recognize contributions and successes
  • Where changes are expected in the workplace (e.g., fewer workers to start, different operating hours, new operating procedures or expectations):
    • Be explicit, honest, positive and accessible, describing why the change is happening, what to expect and when the change will take place
    • Explain how the change will be implemented
    • Discuss possible challenges and take steps or make resources available to address concerns raised by employees
  • Provide fair notice when employees are expected back to work:
    • Accommodate needs and be flexible on start-up times (e.g., allow time to arrange for childcare or transportation, where needed)
    • Enable employees to continue work at home, where possible
  • Address job insecurity, for example:
    • Explain plan to retain existing employees, with goal to develop broad range of skills to ensure employees have as many opportunities as possible
    • Advise on stages to bring back employees, such as starting with fewer people and more part-time situations
    • Where layoffs are expected, give as much advanced notice to affected workers as possible
    • Provide placement counselling/make referrals to local career services; provide information about alternative job opportunities in the community and information on how to obtain economic assistance
  • Increase availability of workplace health programs and services, such as counselling services, information sessions on maintaining healthy lifestyle

MATCHING EMPLOYEES TO THE ‘BEST FIT’ JOB

  • Discuss need to make changes to employee job roles to reflect new work practices:
    • Explain process that will be used (e.g., review skills and interests and match workers to the new skills or roles, with added support and training to help them adjust)
    • Listen carefully to employees’ concerns:
      • Provide detailed resources to reassure employees that you’ve heard their concerns
      • If they express fear of change, offer realistic reassurance that additional skills training and supports are there to help them make the change successfully
    • Reinforce what the employee currently does well and has previously accomplished:
      • Emphasize how these strengths will help them transition to new roles or responsibilities
  • Formally or informally assess employees’ skills and interests or aspirations, for example:
    • Employee self-assessment
    • Supervisor assessment
    • Discussion on strengths, successes, areas that could be developed
  • Discuss possible needs that require accommodations or consideration, for example:
    • Scheduling requests to accommodate childcare schedule or available transportation
    • Employees living with someone from a high-risk group (e.g., over 65, existing health problems)
  • Discuss potential new skills, tasks or job role:
    • Be explicit, answer questions
    • Seek agreement on the revised job role and schedule
    • Create job description
  • Determine professional development or skills training needs:
    • Focus on the skills gaps between employee competencies, experience, and qualifications and the target job requirements
  • Develop individualized development plan (IDP), for example:
    • Prioritize areas of development
    • Identify and select development strategies (e.g., assignments, training courses, coaching)
    • Identify resources and supports required
    • Set milestones and timelines (e.g., daily, weekly, monthly)
  • Provide support and guidance:
    • Track progress and results

Download the Checklist PDF here

In April, following two months of increases, tourism employment fell by 68,900.

The seasonally adjusted Labour Force Survey (LFS) data shows employment across all industries—not just tourism—dropping by 207,000. The unadjusted data shows a drop of “only” 73,700—a large gap between adjusted and unadjusted data. Usually, employment starts to increase in the spring as businesses begin to prepare for the summer. Because the usual trend at this time of year is an employment increase, seasonal adjustments will amplify any decrease when applied.

In February and March, tourism employment increased by 139,700. April’s employment drop resulted from another round of public health restrictions to stem the emergence of the third wave of COVID-19.

Data is from the week of April 11 to 17, 2021.

Highlights:

  • In April, employment across all industries fell by 73,700. Tourism employment fell by 68,900, a decrease of 4.4% from March. The tourism sector accounted for 93.5% of employment losses.
  • Compared to the same month pre-pandemic, tourism employment is down 25.3%, with 510,200 fewer workers employed compared to April 2019.
  • The travel services industry lost almost a quarter of its workforce in April, down 24.0% compared to March.
  • April’s tourism employment losses were concentrated in British Columbia, Ontario, and Alberta, with smaller employment decreases seen in Quebec and Prince Edward Island.
  • Compared to 2019, provincial tourism employment is well below pre-COVID levels, ranging from -9.1% in New Brunswick to -34.3% in Newfoundland and Labrador.
  • In April 2021, the unemployment rate in the tourism sector was at 11.3%.
  • Unemployment dropped in tourism despite the loss of employment. Two factors caused this. One, conditions for seeking work are difficult. Two, the LFS only associates unemployed workers with their former industry for one year.

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 April, employment across all industries fell by 73,700. Tourism employment fell by 68,900, a decrease of 4.4% from March. The tourism sector accounted for 93.5% of employment losses. The large majority of tourism employment losses were in part-time positions, which decreased by 64,300. In contrast, full-time jobs fell by 4,600.

In April 2021, tourism employed 1,506,000 workers, an improvement compared to April 2020—the lowest point of tourism unemployment during the pandemic. But compared to the same month pre-pandemic, tourism employment is down 25.3%, with 510,200 fewer workers employed compared to April 2019.

Employment decreased in every tourism industry group. Travel services was hit particularly hard this month. Employment in that industry group dropped by 24.0%. The smallest percentage decrease occurred in the transportation industry group (-0.2%), which added 1,600 full-time positions, and the recreation and entertainment industry (-0.9%), which added a large number of full-time jobs. However, significant decreases in part-time positions offset those gains. The food and beverage services industry group lost the largest number of jobs, down by 47,400.

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 recovering. It also helps illustrate the size of the employment increase or decrease relative to total employment within a given industry group. Following two months of employment gains, tourism employment is now down 22.2% compared to February 2020, the last month before pandemic-related employment losses began.

The travel services industry lost almost a quarter of its workforce in April, down 24.0% compared to March.

Other industry groups saw smaller employment decreases in percentage terms. Employment fell 6.4% in food and beverage services, 3.2% in accommodations, 0.9% in recreation and entertainment, and 0.2% in the transportation industry.

Since the pandemic began, employment levels are down by over a quarter across the entire tourism sector. Employment is down 31.7% in accommodations, 27.7% in food and beverage services, 26.1% in travel services, 23.7% in recreation and entertainment, and 20.0% in transportation.

April 2020 was the lowest point for tourism employment during the pandemic. When comparing 2021 to 2020, employment may have increased on a year-over-year basis while remaining well below pre-COVID levels. In April 2021, this is undoubtedly true. Tourism employment is up 30.7% on a year-over-year basis, and all tourism industries employ more people than they did at this time last year. However, compared to April 2019, tourism employment is down 25.3%. The most significant percentage decrease in employment is in the accommodations industry group.

Provincial Tourism Employment

April’s tourism employment losses were concentrated in British Columbia, Ontario, and Alberta, with smaller employment decreases seen in Quebec and Prince Edward Island. The other provinces saw slight increases in employment. However, since data was collected for April, some of these provinces have introduced additional restrictions. Those are likely to negate April’s employment gains.

In every province except Newfoundland and Labrador, tourism employment was higher this April than it was in April 2020. Compared to 2019, provincial tourism employment is well below pre-COVID levels, ranging from -9.1% in New Brunswick to -34.3% in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Tourism Unemployment Rate

Despite a decrease in employment this April, the unemployment rate in the tourism sector dropped. While this may appear counterintuitive, there are two factors that could contribute to this. One, former tourism workers must actively be seeking a new job to be considered unemployed. Labour market conditions, including stay-at-home orders in Ontario, make it difficult to seek work. Two, the Labour Force Survey determines the industry of a former worker based on the last industry for those currently unemployed who held a job in the previous year[1]. Any former tourism workers who have not found a job since March 2020 may still be unemployed, but they are not counted as part of the tourism sector’s former workforce.

The number of unemployed workers dropped in all provinces and all industry groups, except for accommodations. The number of unemployed tourism workers also remains well above pre-pandemic levels, but has been declining since January. In February and March, this could be attributed to increasing employment. In April, much of the decrease is likely due to former workers declining to seek a new job until public health restrictions are eased. However, some of the decrease in unemployment could be due to former tourism workers moving to other sectors.

In April 2021, the unemployment rate in the tourism sector was at 11.3%, which is 17.7 percentage points lower than the rate reported in April 2020, and lower than the previous month (March 2021), when the unemployment rate stood at 13.0%.

At 11.3%, tourism’s unemployment rate was above Canada’s seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate of 8.4%.

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

Unemployment Rate
Tourism Industry Group[2]

April 2020

March 2021

April 2021

Tourism 29.0% 13.0% 11.3%
Accommodations 35.9% 14.0% 16.2%
Food & Beverage Services 34.5% 14.0% 11.6%
Recreation & Entertainment 28.4% 15.3% 13.1%
Transportation 15.0% 7.5% 6.7%
Travel Services 22.6% 8.8% 7.4%

On a provincial basis, tourism unemployment rates ranged from 5.6% in Saskatchewan to 15.1% in Newfoundland and Labrador.

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

The Tourism Labour Force

The tourism labour force shrank significantly between March and April. Not only did the number of employed tourism workers decrease, but the number of unemployed tourism workers also fell by 43,400 due to the factors noted above. The tourism labour force is only slightly larger than it was one year ago.

Employment by Sector

As of April, Canada’s tourism sector employed 519,100 fewer people than it did in February 2020. Across all industries, there were 422,800 fewer people employed this April than there were in February 2020. Meanwhile, employment is higher than it was pre-COVID in nine other sectors of the economy.

Hours of Work

The total hours worked in the tourism sector has decreased to a greater degree than employment. The decrease in hours suggests that economic activity has fallen to a greater degree than employment data alone would suggest. Several factors could be behind this gap, but it is partially due to programs like the Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy and other supports. In April, employment was down 25.6% compared to February 2020. The total actual hours worked by tourism employees was down 30.8%, from 64.0 billion hours to 38.8 billion hours. Only in the recreation and entertainment industry has employment fallen more than actual hours of work. The travel services industry has the most significant gap in worker activity measures: employment is down 26.1%, but hours worked are down 37.6%.

Demographic Impact

Numerous studies have noticed the negative effect of COVID-19 on employment among women, immigrants, young people, and visible minorities relative to other demographic groups. To a large extent, the industries that have suffered the brunt of COVID-19 have a higher share of workers from these demographic groups than the overall Canadian labour market. Tourism, for example, has a higher percentage of jobs held by women, young people, and immigrants than the workforce as a whole. However, even within the tourism sector, COVID-19’s negative impact on employment has fallen on some demographic groups to a greater degree than others.

Gender

In February 2020, women represented 47.8% of all employed workers in Canada. Women made up 48.1% of employed workers in tourism and were the majority of employees in the accommodations, food and beverage services, and travel services industry groups.

In the early months of the pandemic, female tourism workers were impacted to a greater degree. Using February 2020 as the baseline, by April, employment among women had fallen to 54.2%, while tourism employment among men had “only” fallen to 59.4% of February levels. The initial employment recovery was also better for men. But over the summer, employment among women rose higher. The food and beverage services industry’s ability to remain open to a greater degree than other tourism industries is a likely cause. This industry employs the largest number of tourism workers, and the majority of its workers are female. Employment levels for both genders fell during the fall and have settled into rough equivalence in terms of negative impact since February 2021.

Age

Tourism employs a very high share of young workers compared to the broader economy. The 2016 census showed that people aged 15 to 24 held 12.8% of all jobs in Canada. People in the same age category fill over 30% of jobs in tourism. Young people tend to be a particularly prominent part of the tourism workforce over the summer months. In July 2019, 37.0% of employed tourism workers were youth.

The first months of the pandemic impacted young tourism workers to an incredible degree. Setting February 2020 as the employment baseline (100%), youth employment had fallen to 38.6% of its pre-pandemic level by April. Over the summer, youth employment levels came back and were equivalent to employment levels in other age groups. In the fall, youth employment fell once more. Some of that decline would have been students returning to school. This phenomenon does not impact other age groups to the same degree. However, as of April 2021, it is clear that the pandemic has hit young workers in tourism much more than older workers. Although employment is down across all age categories, youth employment is only 64.3% of what it was before COVID-19.

Immigrant Status

In February 2020, landed immigrants held 26.1% of all jobs in the Canadian economy. In the tourism sector, they held 27.9% of jobs. The Labour Force Survey data shows that the impact on employment amongst the two demographic groups has been mixed. As of April, the amount of tourism employment among non-immigrants was 86.2% of February 2020 levels, while employment among landed immigrants was at 77.8%. Last summer, employment levels among non-immigrants exceed that of immigrants. However, come fall and winter, as a group, landed immigrants tended to have higher levels of employment than non-immigrants. The most likely reason for this is that immigrant workers tend to be older than non-immigrant workers, on average. The young workers who pick up summer jobs are much more likely to be non-immigrants.[3]

Regardless, if we look at immigrants by arrival period, those immigrants who came to Canada within the last five years have suffered the greatest loss of employment. Among that group, employment levels are only 53.7% of February 2020 levels as of April.

Region

The geographic impact of COVID-19 has not been evenly distributed. All regions have been negatively affected, but urban cores have lost tourists, and downtowns have also lost many office workers who used to frequent restaurants and recreational facilities during lunch or after work. Overall, tourism employment is down 25.3% in April 2021 compared to April 2019. Looking at tourism employment by geographic location, it becomes clear that urban cores, small towns, and villages have suffered the most in terms of tourism employment losses. The urban fringes (e.g., suburbs and bedroom communities) and rural areas attached to urban centres have seen smaller employment losses. These trends hold for both tourism and for employment across all industries. In fact, overall employment in rural areas outside of urban areas is the one region that had more employed workers this April than two years ago.

Summer Outlook

Tourism’s employment increases in February and March were a response to the lifting of health restrictions in a number of provinces. The emergence of a deadly third wave of the virus undercut these gains.

Modelling from the Public Health Agency of Canada expects that uptake of the first vaccine dose will influence whether it is safe to lift public health measures this summer. The modelling shows that if at least 75% of adults receive the first dose of vaccine (with 20% having received their second dose), it should be safe to lift health measures. This is not meant to indicate that COVID-19 would not continue to spread to some degree, but hospital capacity would not be exceeded as was the case during the third wave.[4]

However, public health restrictions are the responsibility of the provinces and territories. Already, some provinces have indicated that current restrictions will be extended into June.[5] It is difficult to predict the exact time and pace of reopening, as it depends on vaccine uptake and the effectiveness of current measures at reducing new infections. Reopening is likely to occur in stages and at a different pace depending on the province. Saskatchewan has created a reopening roadmap based on milestones related to the percentage of the population that has been vaccinated—with a three-week lag in order for the vaccines’ effectiveness to take hold.[6]

The most likely scenario for the summer is one in which travel and recreation are possible, due to most Canadians receiving their first vaccination. International travel will be muted or non-existent. The signals around domestic tourism are mixed. Research from Destination Canada shows 80% of Canadians plan to travel once it is safe to do so, but survey work by Leger shows 54% of Canadians are somewhat or very unlikely to take a summer vacation in 2021. On the positive side, the 31% who say they are likely to take a vacation will probably be doing so within Canada, which will boost domestic travel.[7]

Bottom line: Local demand is going to be more important than ever for the tourism sector.

For more on the impact of COVID-19 on Canada’s tourism workforce, please visit our Employment Tracker.


[1] Statistics Canada, Guide to the Labour Force Survey 2020.
[2] As defined by the Canadian Tourism Satellite Account. The NAICS industries included in the tourism sector are those that would cease to exist or operate at a significantly reduced level of activity as a direct result of an absence of tourism.
[3] In February 2020, 37.2% of non-immigrant tourism workers were 15-24, whereas 18.9% of immigrant tourism workers were 15-24.
[4] Update on Covid-19 in Canada: Epidemiology and Modelling, Public Health Agency of Canada, April 23rd, 2021
[5] https://toronto.ctvnews.ca/ontario-s-stay-at-home-order-will-likely-be-extended-into-june-to-avoid-fourth-covid-19-wave-1.5421423
[6] https://www.saskatchewan.ca/government/news-and-media/2021/may/04/reopening-roadmap-a-gradual-measured-approach-to-easing-public-health-measures
[7] Leger’s North American Tracker, May 14th, 2021, Leger

By Joe Baker, Tourism HR Canada Board Member

As spring turns to summer and autumn looms on the horizon, many Canadians are looking for a roadmap to reopening. None more so than those who work in the tourism sector. Destination Canada’s recent “Revisiting Tourism” report[1] made three key findings worth highlighting as we edge closer to reopening Canada’s tourism industry:

  1. Canadians want to travel: while safety is a key consideration in planning travel, data shows high interest in future international travel.
  2. If Canadians shift two-thirds of their planned spend on international leisure travel towards domestic tourism, it will make up for the estimated $19 billion shortfall currently facing our visitor economy—and help sustain 150,000 jobs.
  3. Recovery is forecasted to take years, but a significant increase in domestic travel can accelerate recovery by one year.

Part of the recovery of the tourism industry requires reinvention to capitalize on an increased focus on Canadians exploring their own country before travelling abroad. One of the key opportunities presented to Canada’s tourism industry as part of this reemphasis on all things local is to revisit the concept of sustainable Canadian tourism. How can this be realized? By creating a tourism business model that helps other stakeholders within the industry to thrive while leveraging our collective strengths. While much of the dialogue around sustainable tourism may seem environmental, there are also social values and economic impact to consider. So how do you create a business model that benefits others? There is an emerging “new world” of entrepreneurs, reminiscent of “old world” entrepreneurs, who bring a new consciousness to help communities and economies build and grow together through tourism. I was fortunate to recently encounter a tourism reinventionist and am excited to share the story of Landsby with you—a story that embodies this sentiment. A story of transformation; the result of reinvention through revisitation. A story of common tourism goals, driven by passion for the industry, centred around communities working towards shared success.

Landsby is a new Canadian tourism company founded by Jason Sarracini. It centres around providing unique tourism experiences within Canada. Landsby offers custom packages and itineraries based on the interests of the consumer combined with the local business and surrounding environment. The driving concept? To make Canada the destination. There are so many places to discover and experience in Canada, and Landsby strives to uncover that. The word “Landsby” is Nordic for the word village, and the concept of Landsby is rooted in the phrase “it takes a village” —supporting each other to grow and thrive and telling our stories in the hope of inspiring others. And as Sarracini reminded me, the origin of the word “Canada” is in fact derived from the Huron-Iroquois word “kanata” which means village or settlement. For Sarracini, the synchronicity is not only obvious, but also pivotal. He says humbly, “I wanted to create something centred on connection, and village, and stories, and opportunities.” And even though “Lands By” is not the formal pronunciation of the name, there is an intention behind the play on words; it packages tourism experiences “by” the locals.

So how did Sarracini arrive here? Let’s start at the beginning. For many of us, including myself, our grandparents offer our first introduction to the hospitality and tourism industry. They epitomized tourism—coming to Canada, travelling throughout the country, finding a place within Canada to call their home. Sarracini’s grandfather immigrated from Italy in the 1940s, after the Second World War, and arrived in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He became a leading figure in the Italian community, including getting into media and co-founding CHIN radio. His grandfather observed that as people immigrated to Canada and got settled, they were also longing to go back to their home country, which gave him an idea—he decided to start a travel agency, Ontario Sarracini Travel. Sarracini’s father and aunt shared in this passion and so got involved in the business, a business they continue to run today, with that same underlying and unwavering passion.

Sarracini had been travelling from a very young age, and the experiences he had helped him realize his passion for travel. Unsure of what he wanted to choose as a career, he leaned into that passion—and went to Florence, Italy, to attend a language school. Sarracini notes it was the most transformative experience of his life. He met so many different people, including his wife, and after nine months there, he returned home. But on his return, he brought something back with him—his uncertainty about what he wanted to choose as a career. He joined his father in their family travel agency and started in accounting in the back office. It wasn’t strategic, but in retrospect he says this was the best move he could have made because from the back office he could see how the whole operations of the company worked. They were coming into the year 2000 during his tenure and something else was simultaneously happening in the world: technology and communication was undergoing a revolutionary disruption. Travel and tourism companies started launching websites and offering online packages, ultimately giving consumers a whole new experience that required existing companies to quickly climb on board and adapt to be considered in a competitive market.

In 2004, Sarracini got a group together and cofounded an online travel agency called Target Vacations. He was aware of his big player competitors—itravel2000, Expedia, and Travelocity, to name a few—but he also thought he could do it a little differently and conceived their tagline “we take vacations personally”. While having an understanding of known competitors and offering unique marketing, what he had not foreseen were the unknown competitors. Redtag.ca launched a month before them, and while Sarracini carried on with his company for nearly a decade, he decided he needed to reinvent. Driven by his passion, equipped with vulnerability, and embracing reinvention as a mantra for success, Sarracini epitomized resilience. He used the expertise of his company and explored various partnerships, and when those ran their course and his partners underwent their own transformations, he even explored media. But there was a constant reminder always tugging at his heart—his passion for travel. He wasn’t ready to forsake his destination, he just needed to reroute to get there. He went back to the vast network he met along the way. He understood he was in an industry centered around people, but also one that relied on and encouraged people to support each other. He engaged his networks and was offered opportunities that blended all of his experience and expertise, opportunities that ranged from media and commerce to luxury cruise lines and luxury villas.

Sarracini then decided to do something courageous. He confronted his experiences, his passions, and his beginnings. And he decided to think again. Sarracini states, “I decided I had been disappointed by too many people and I should just be doing this on my own, for myself, how I want to do it. And if I fail, I fail myself.” In January of 2020 he went back to the family business and found a business plan from 2017 with an element of the business on Canada, and had a thought: “We need to do Canada better.” As Sarracini assembled his thoughts and ideas, he was once again facing a revolutionary disruption—COVID-19 had been declared a pandemic. Sarracini notes, “Our family business that had been operating for over 50 years was now not bringing in anything. Like many businesses, you summon every aspect of business you’ve gone through. You read, you try to be open, and you act. The act was I couldn’t control the revenue side, but I could control the expense side. The government had been very supportive with the subsidies and we used that, pushing through with the spirit of this will all come back at some stage, even if not right away.” Sarracini started thinking about what he could do. He had always been interested in the tech side and acted as product manager but never really had the fundamentals, so he decided to go back to school, taking a product management course. He recognized that on the other side of learning is transformation.

For many business leaders, this has been a time of learning a new skill or learning the new norms of operating a business. We are fortunate to have an organization such as Tourism HR Canada actively creating learning tools for our industry—especially those of us who are navigating the path of entrepreneurship during this era of disruption. In fact, just this spring, Tourism HR Canada launched the Business Builders eLearning course. Business Builders is a powerful “how-to” resource to help you start, grow, and manage a tourism enterprise in Canada. The course contains practical tools and guidance on business fundamentals.

Now in build mode, working with his family company, Sarracini decided to go backwards. He revisited a meeting he had with members of Destination Canada in a previous role and recalled being introduced to their Canadian Signature Experiences Program. He states, “I’d always thought it was an interesting angle in Canada, but it needs to be brought to life. I printed off the list of 200 designated partners, went through the list, pulled their contacts, and reached out to every single one of them. I told them this is what we do, I want to create a business that is anchored in this program and I needed to make it really easy for them.” They secured 50 partners and while it did not drive a lot of revenue, it kept them relevant. Sarracini continued to push his idea, next coming to the Canadian Travel Show, understanding the importance of community engagement. He began travelling within Ontario, staying in different parts. While staying at one of the cabins, Sarracini had a revelation: “If this exists here, an hour and a half out of Toronto, this exists everywhere. I’ve travelled so much, but I really don’t know what’s around here.” And it was in this moment that Landsby was born.

So what is it that makes this a unique travel company and how do we motivate people to take advantage of this when so often we think travel and tourism means leaving our country? Landsby is determined to expose the wonderful experiences in our own country, the obvious and not so obvious ones, and making it unique to us, while boasting access to many authentic visitor experiences. Sarracini’s driving thoughts were: “How are we going to get people to stay here? In their minds, they are waiting to go somewhere else. We have to convert those people to spending their money here and convince them to stay here. Even though we can’t tell people to move around, we have to be telling that story now. If you’re going to stay in a cottage, how much are you actually contributing to the hospitality sector? How do we tell the story that we want to spend time in the different layers of the hospitality sector and support multiple people and businesses?” Part of the challenge of the business model is how is Landsby going convey an experience that is not just reselling what’s already being done. And Landsby’s response to this is through immersive experiences and packaging, built around the guiding principle that it’s not just going away to sleep somewhere else, but experiencing the region through the lens of local tourism communities. Sarracini states, “These are distinct from exotic destinations, not meant to be compared. There are amazing experiences that can be wrapped together and presented to Canadians, but that are incredibly difficult to find right now. I think there’s an opportunity to resurface these experiences that people are really looking for that have always relied on international travellers, but that our local travellers could really help and experience and benefit from.”

If we follow Destination Canada’s recommendation to boost Canadian tourism by promoting Canadians travelling in Canada, then we will need all of our tourism businesses focusing on attracting Canadians to Canada. Landsby is contributing to exactly that, being both intentional and thoughtful. Sarracini states “In Canada, I have been disappointed with travel advisors and their lack of ability to turn and look inward. Canadian travel agents should focus their attention on Canada and they’re not. Agents have power. It’s hard to convince someone to stay here, especially when it gets colder. Travel advisors here have not been focused on learning about Canada; they haven’t focused their energy on trying to learn the province they are an agent of. Instead, ask how can I provide value to my customers by showing them what can you do here which is two hours away, a short flight away, a ferry ride away, and make them feel good about contributing to their own. We’re not saying don’t go on your cruise.” It’s hard to argue against this point. There is an apparent undertraining as it relates to the travel industry and advisors, not necessarily related to the technical skills, but rather a deficit in training ‘pride of place’ and training the skill of passion and persuasion. The vision of Landsby and Sarracini’s own desire to give back and contribute is inspiring and something we as Canadians can all learn from and strive for as a community motivated to lift each other through our collective response to adversity.

It’s becoming harder to find these stories of the multigenerational families of Canadian tourism—people who started in the industry, worked their way up, stuck with it because they believed in it, and trained the next generation. We have become a transient business. When we lose our workforce to other industries, we run the risk of losing our collective wisdom, experience, and—mostly—passion. There is no one better to sell a Canadian tourism experience to a fellow traveller than someone who has, themselves, travelled this vast country. Someone who has had the opportunity to absorb and reflect on their experience. One of the core competencies of selling anything is storytelling—a natural skill developed when sharing experiences between generations.

As we work towards recovery, we mustn’t forget to take care of the workforce. If we take care of the workforce, the workforce takes care of our business. The people of tourism are a big part of the circular, sustainable business model—as they grow, we grow. They can exemplify passion and persuasion. If people in the industry are focused on international destinations, then the people in Canada are focused on getting people to have experiences outside of Canada. It requires a concentrated effort to bring the focus to sell experiences within Canada.

The pandemic has led many of us to individually look deep inside ourselves. Remembering who we are, why we do what we do, what we love about what we do, and how we can do it differently and, ultimately, better. Resilience measures our ability to respond to adversity and we develop resilience by facing adversity and learning from it. Not everybody tries to transform or is in a position to pivot, yet there is a richness in the reflective process. The pandemic has certainly allowed for us to explore our immediate surroundings. One thing that resonates about Sarracini’s story was he said, “My grandfather was an incredible people person and a terrible businessperson. He always did what was best for the people but not for the business.” This is relatable personally and across the industry—not only is this is a people-focused industry, but people really are at the core of our businesses. We need to blend business growth with human capital development. Next time you find yourself on a personal or professional road map that says “you are here”, stop and explore where here is. Canada can be the starting point but it can also be the destination. We can go back to the start and discover, and rediscover, where we are. And while we know it takes a village, let’s remember to stop and tour that village along the way. They need our support too.

[1] Revisiting Tourism: Canada’s Visitor Economy One Year into the Global Pandemic, March 2021


Joe Baker is President and CEO of Joe Baker & Co., a human capital 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. You can find Joe everywhere @thejoebaker.

The Tourism HR Canada team is proud to announce the launch of its Tourism Business Builders online program, developed specifically for tourism and hospitality entrepreneurs. This much-anticipated update moves the renowned program to a fully online offering, allowing for 24/7 access on the organization’s Emerit.ca learning platform and the flexibility to quickly add content as new needs and priorities arise.

The timing of this launch is fortuitous: businesses who have been the most adversely impacted by COVID are not only looking at recovery, but in many cases a complete restart to their operations. While reviving a business is generally not a process an entrepreneur wants to contend with, it does present opportunities to re-assess priorities, including product and service offerings, audiences, financing, and marketing.

Now these same businesses can access this brand new “how-to” resource, which contains nine comprehensive modules on business fundamentals and dozens of practical tools, including Excel templates and PDF worksheets…all FREE for a limited time.

Tourism Business Builders will retail for $199.00, but as part of Tourism HR Canada’s recovery strategy, the organization will offer it free of charge until September 1, 2021, to assist tourism business owners, operators, and prospective entrepreneurs.

Tourism businesses need support now more than ever, and this special offer adds to Tourism HR Canada’s recovery efforts. These include the free suite of resources available at TourismRecovery.ca and the free Emerit online occupational training offered earlier in the pandemic (with over 5,000 courses accessed).

Tourism Business Builders contains comprehensive online modules that cover such core topics as:

  • Creating Your Product
  • Financial Management
  • Staffing Matters
  • Marketing
  • The Customer
  • Managing Operations

As self-directed resources, these modules will help business owners/operators to review and revamp current planning and management practices. Entrepreneurs looking to launch a new tourism operation can work through the series to prepare a solid business plan and learn how to successfully run a tourism business—from start-up planning to day-to-day operations.

The interactive learning modules are augmented by templates that cover core financial content like balance sheets, cash flow statements, and income statements. Additionally, customizable PDF templates assist in product development, marketing, customer service, HR activities, and numerous other business essentials.

Used in conjunction with TourismRecovery.ca and Emerit.ca training for numerous tourism and hospitality occupations, owners/operators can build a strong business recovery and reengagement plan that covers all the basics needed to steer towards success.

Access Tourism Business Builders for free at Emerit.ca

The COVID pandemic has accelerated the impact of digitalization on tourism, and significant changes to business models and operational needs have triggered major workforce shifts.

COVID has demonstrated the need for digitalization to help businesses be more resilient and able to respond to disruptive events such as catastrophic weather (e.g., hurricanes, blizzards, tornadoes), bear markets, or pandemics.

The entire tourism experience has had to transform. Fundamental changes to how we interact and heightened requirements for safety and health measures mean that nearly every tourism product or service that involves human interaction has had to change. Since tourism is a high-contact industry, the nature of work and workplaces is undergoing rapid transformation. This impacts the types of skills or workers needed and involves increased application of technology to facilitate new protocols. And so, the big question is: what is the impact on jobs?

Early Adopter

The use of the technology is not new to the sector. The industry was an early adopter of technology to augment, automate, and improve services. Increased digitalization helps tourism businesses transform business models, scale services, and enter new markets. Investments in technology have resulted in increased market share, reduced costs, improved efficiencies, and reduced waste. Technology is used to facilitate improved and alternate means for customer engagement, such as the use of e-marketing or automated and touchless services. Businesses rely on technology to analyze ever-complex market data to identify new and emerging visitor markets. Increasingly, tourism businesses recognize that investing in the use of the technology is a necessity and will enable them to be more responsive to market fluctuations, consumer demands, changes in regulations, and business disruptions—ultimately: to be more resilient.

Historically, tourism’s adoption of technology was a response to digital travel trends and changing consumer demands. This chart provides a glimpse at the tourism experience—a basic illustration of the visitor journey along the value chain—and the types of digital interactions that guide the journey and help define the experience.

Examples of the Digital Experience and Business Technology Applications

Today, the adoption of technology and increased move to digitalization is out of necessity. Tourism businesses require investments in technology to deliver on visitor experiences, and these investments are tied to their workers. COVID-19 is one example that has accelerated labour market transitions, where automation and many other factors have caused significant workforce changes and disrupted business practices.

Job Polarization

Adapting to a post-COVID business environment will require significant investments in the workforce. There are concerns about jobs at risk of automation; these often involve lower-educated workers performing tasks that require minimal skills. At the same time, the acceleration of digitalization is creating new opportunities and demands for workers with new or different skills.

The automation and digitalization of work and business practices will eliminate some jobs while creating others. This ‘job polarization’ is directly linked to business transformations intended to help make them more resilient to shocks or disruptions.

Identifying New Skills

Digitalization is a direct response to social, political, economic, and natural factors. COVID amplified and accelerated the labour market transformations that were already underway, due to factors such as globalization, increased focus on ecological practices, changing demographics, urbanization, and migration. The structural changes to business models are necessary to help businesses survive and cope with the changes. Skills demands are shifting because of these changes.

To illustrate the impact on jobs and skills, let’s look at some of the prevailing/new skills identified by Tourism HR Canada as being part of COVID recovery and improved structural changes to business models that will enable them to be more resilient and globally competitive. Each of these is dependent on investments in technology or the digitalization of functions.

Business innovation, e.g., workers with skills to:

  • Develop and manage virtual services and virtual reality experiences (e.g., conferences, guided tours, hotel bookings)
  • Innovate and implement product distribution to mitigate risks (e.g., food services, sales of craftworks)

Management of new business technology functions, with skilled staff to:

  • Develop and conduct digital marketing strategies, including analytics
  • Produce marketing content and respond to ongoing digital presence
  • Manage digital products

Increased complexity and scope of financial management skills, for functions such as:

  • Managing cashflow
  • Seeking new revenue streams
  • Procurement and supplier management (e.g., management of inventory systems, improving purchasing systems)

Community engagement and visitor-relations activities, such as skills and capacity to:

  • Lead or contribute to community-led labour market action plans
  • Improve on stakeholder/consumer engagement strategies

Business resilience, including workers with skills to:

  • Research and develop new and ever-changing markets
  • Crisis management and PR activities

Transforming human capital management practices will involve new models that include mixed workforces (permanent/anchor teams + casual/freelancers + shared workers). Skills are needed to:

  • Transform HR practices and protocols and to respond and adapt to rapid changing regulations and labour law
  • Work with ‘people analytics’
  • Develop engagement strategies, measures, and supports
  • Work with increasingly diverse populations
  • Facilitate needs around mental health and other personal interests

Environmental and sustainable practices require workers with abilities to:

  • Analyze business practices and identify ways in which the business is able to reduce reliance on ‘the grid’ or improve on its ecological footprint
  • Analyze new regulations and translate the practices into operational compliance/business practices
  • Conduct consumer research and define products or services that respond to consumer demands
  • Tap into government incentivized programs/funding

Redefining the Tourism Workplace

So, what does all this mean in terms of jobs? Some workers will be more affected than others. Jobs will be redefined by the skills required, and by new ways of working (e.g., teleworking, use of digital tools). Shifts in consumer preferences will drive business decisions and require reskilling and upskilling, with a focus on workers that are able to work in a range of contexts (i.e., transferable skills).

The shrinking labour force will cause employers to work differently and with mixed workforces and to rely on more community-led models to facilitate this demand. Technology will help augment and enhance the skills needed while improving customer services and enabling businesses to expand or tap into new markets.

Research shows that the sum gain is more jobs are created, and with this a very different makeup of the workforce.


For more on this topic, watch The Impact of Digitalization on the Tourism Workforce.