Month: January 2022

The tourism industry is facing an unprecedented shortfall of workers and major structural challenges impacting its workforce. The labour shortage is expected to be long-lasting—it may be a decade or more before the industry reaches pre-pandemic employment levels.

In response, Tourism HR Canada has initiated a three-year project funded by Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) to tackle Canada’s tourism workforce recovery and to restart tourism by securing a skilled, diverse, and resilient workforce.

We are calling on you—tourism industry leaders, business owners, workers, educators, and students—to assist in providing information, ideas, and advice for this workforce recovery project through several new Tourism Workforce Recovery Working Groups.

Beyond dealing with the immediate crisis, Tourism HR Canada wants to prepare our industry for the future. As a progressive stakeholder in the tourism sector, this is an opportunity to lend your expertise, opinions, and support to an integral initiative to expedite recovery and build a more resilient industry. Furthermore, this project aims to align activities and outcomes to meet some of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

What Is the Aim of the Tourism Workforce Recovery Working Groups?

Led by Tourism HR Canada, the Tourism Workforce Recovery Working Groups’ overall aim is to support the project team by providing recommendations to align the project with the realities experienced by the sector and by sharing a wide range of ideas to ensure the representation of diverse tourism stakeholders from across Canada.

How Will Working Group Members Contribute?

We are striking these strategic working groups to assist us with several facets of the work being conducted over the next three years. We’re seeking participants who can provide insights and advice on the resources we will be developing—this could include guiding the direction of the resources, pilot-testing them once developed, and validating them for use across Canada.

Specifically, we are seeking Working Group members for the following initiatives:

  • eLearning and microlearning courses for entry-to-practice and other core skill-specific learning to better prepare the workforce as the industry emerges from the impact of the pandemic and looks to once again be one of the fastest growing industries (as it was pre-COVID). These resources will be part of our Emerit product offering as we focus on building and updating products to better serve the sector’s labour needs.
  • A new micro-credentialling model and related resources (training and assessment) for high-demand skills areas that further promote improved diversity, inclusion, and anti-oppressive practices and for skills areas that have high transferability/marketability in the labour market. This focus on retooling skills is in direct response to the pandemic, with the aim of accelerating the recovery of the tourism workforce.
  • Development/update of four Emerit Professional Certification programs for management and executive roles.
  • Suite of new online, customizable workforce management tools for employers and intermediaries (e.g., career development practitioners, educators) to foster stronger attachments to the workforce for both job seekers and workers.
  • Enhancements and new competencies for the Emerit Workforce Management Engine (WME), an online platform that enables users to access, and use, the tourism competency framework (developed as the Future Skills Framework). It provides National Occupational Standards validated by industry, and users can build their own job descriptions and skills checklists to aid their work and identify skills gaps.
  • A secure, stable, and adaptive learning management infrastructure to support post-pandemic priorities and enable the organization to adapt, evolve, and execute a digital strategy to help businesses address essential workforce needs.

What Commitment Is Required?

Involvement in any Tourism Workforce Recovery Working Group is voluntary and flexible. Activities may include pilot-testing learning tools, ratifying or reviewing provided information, and attendance in working sessions/meetings throughout the three-year project.

Learn More

For more information on this new initiative or to get involved in one or more of the Tourism Workforce Recovery Working Groups, please contact dmaxwell@tourismhr.ca by February 18, 2022. The Terms of Reference with further details will be provided. Working Group members will be invited to join based on their personal knowledge, breadth of experience, and capability to add to the dialogue at meetings.


COMING SOON: A Pan-Canadian Tourism Workforce Recovery & Growth Task Force will also be formed in the coming weeks. This group will support the efforts of the Tourism Workforce Recovery Working Groups by providing advice and information to address short-term and long-term systemic and structural issues facing the tourism sector. Be sure to subscribe to Tourism HR Insider for updates.

Late last week, annual labour force survey data for the tourism sector was released. That data shows the stark, ongoing impact of the pandemic on tourism employment. In 2019, tourism employed almost 2.1 million workers. In 2020, this fell to 1.62 million workers, and only rose 2.2% in 2021. There were 1.66 million tourism employees in 2021—that’s 413,500 fewer than in 2019.

Tourism HR Canada will review the annual data and release a full report in the coming months.

Data for the month of December was also published last week. Tourism employment increased for the second month in a row, rising by 8,100, or 0.5%. Data was collected the week of December 5th to 11th, before most Omicron-related restrictions started to be implemented, and therefore do not capture the results of business closures and layoffs later in the month.

Across the entire economy, seasonally adjusted employment rose by 55,000 in December. But the seasonally unadjusted data, which captures the actual number of individuals gaining or losing work, showed employment falling by 13,700. For December, that is a very small employment drop—hence the gain in jobs once seasonal adjustments are made.

Whether using adjusted or unadjusted data, total employment was much higher than in February 2020, the month before the pandemic set in, and than it was in December 2019, to look at the same month prior to COVID. Yet tourism employment remains significantly suppressed, down 16.1% compared to December 2019—even before taking into account tourism job losses that occurred later in the month.

Highlights:

  • As of early December, 1,743,300 individuals were working in the tourism sector.
  • The travel services industry gained 3,800 full-time employees and 3,700 part-time employees, for a total employment gain of 7,500, a 29.6% increase relative to November.
  • In December 2021, the unemployment rate in the tourism sector was at 5.2%.
  • Compared to November, tourism employment increased by 6.7% in Prince Edward Island, 7.3% in Nova Scotia, and 7.6% in Saskatchewan. Smaller employment gains occurred in Alberta, Manitoba, and Quebec.
  • The total number of unemployed individuals fell for the fourth month in a row this December.
  • The participation rate for individuals aged 15 to 64 is higher than it was two years ago.
  • Job vacancies fell in October (the most recent month for which there is data), but quarterly job vacancy data shows the massive shortfalls tourism industries experienced this summer.

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

Tourism employment increased for the second month in a row in December. The increase in employment was small: an additional 8,100 employees were gained in the sector, an increase of 0.5%. Still, the data for November and December does show that the industry was adding staff in preparation for the holiday season. Increasing employment in November and December contrasts strongly with the trendline from 2020, when employment fell throughout the fall and early winter (see Figure 1). As of early December, 1,743,300 individuals were working in the tourism sector’s five industry groups. This is 172,800 more employed workers than at this time last year. However, compared to the same month in 2019, over 333,000 fewer individuals worked in the tourism sector this December.

Both full-time and part-time tourism employment increased in December, although this trend varied greatly by industry group (see Figure 2).

The travel services industry gained 3,800 full-time employees and 3,700 part-time employees, for a total employment gain of 7,500, a 29.6% increase relative to November. Employment in the accommodations industry grew 3.8%, mostly in part-time positions, as was the case in the transportation industry, which grew 3.4% overall.

There was no employment change in the food and beverage services industry due to a loss of part-time employees that offset a gain of 5,200 full-time employees. Recreation and entertainment was the only industry where employment was lost in December, falling 3.4% due to a loss of both full-time and part-time workers.

Tourism employment has yet to recover to pre-pandemic levels (see Figure 3). Employment is also lower in all industry groups than in December 2019 (see Figure 4).

Despite December’s employment decrease, the recreation and entertainment industry remains closest to pre-pandemic levels of employment. Relative to February 2020, employment in this industry is down 10.1%. Employment levels in the transportation industry are down 11.9% and employment in food and beverage services is down 13.9% when compared to the same month.

While December saw a significant increase in travel services employment, employment is still down 45.1% compared to the last month before pandemic-induced shutdowns began. Employment in the accommodations industry is down 18.0% compared to February 2020.

That said, due to seasonal variability in employment levels within some industries, comparison to the same month in 2019 can provide a better picture of how employment is holding up (see Figure 4). By this metric, the accommodations industry is doing much worse, with employment down 24.8% compared to December 2019. This is also true of food and beverage services, where employment is down 17.8%.

The travel services industry still has a long way to go to return to pre-pandemic levels of employment, but the last two months are an improvement compared to this past October, when employment in that industry was down 62.9% compared to the same month in 2019. As of December, employment levels have improved but remain down 48.0% compared to December 2019.

Across all industries in the Canadian economy, employment had increased 1.5% compared to December 2019, while employment in the tourism industry remained down 16.1%, a decrease of 333,900 individuals.


Tourism Unemployment

For several months, we have not reported the tourism sector’s unemployment rate. This was because once a person has been unemployed for more than a year, Statistic Canada no longer attaches that individual to their former industry. In April and May of 2021, the unemployment rate for tourism dropped precipitously. This was partially due to the reclassification of unemployed former tourism workers into the “unclassified” industry category.

With overall unemployment levels returning to pre-pandemic levels (see below), it is time to start tracking tourism unemployment once more (see Figure 5). This will be particularly important in the coming months, as many tourism workers who were employed in early December will have lost employment due to the spread of the Omicron variant.

In December 2021, the unemployment rate in the tourism sector was at 5.2%, which is 9.5 percentage points lower than the rate reported in December 2020, and unchanged from the previous month (November 2021).

At 5.2%, tourism’s unemployment rate was below Canada’s seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate of 5.4%.

On a provincial basis, tourism unemployment rates ranged from 3.5% in Manitoba to 14.1% in New Brunswick (see Figure 6).

Provincial Tourism Employment

A few provinces saw substantial increases in tourism employment this December. Compared to November, tourism employment increased by 6.7% in Prince Edward Island, 7.3% in Nova Scotia, and 7.6% in Saskatchewan. Smaller employment gains occurred in Alberta, Manitoba, and Quebec. In Ontario, New Brunswick, and Newfoundland and Labrador, tourism employment decreased relative to November.

In most provinces, tourism employment was substantially higher than in December 2020. But compared to the same month in 2019, tourism employment was lower in all provinces, except for Prince Edward Island, where tourism employment was up 4.4% compared to December 2019 (see Figure 7). However, because the Labour Force Survey is based on a sample, and P.E.I. has a small population, that data should be interpreted with caution. Tourism employment in the province is highly seasonal and a recovery in December does not mean employment will also recover this summer.

Job Vacancies

The number of job vacancies in the accommodation and food services sector fell sharply in October, although it remains at historically high levels. The job vacancy rate fell from 14.0% to 11.0% (see Figure 8). Despite the decrease, at 11% there was still one vacant job for for every 10 positions within the sector.

The historically high nature of vacancies in tourism-related sectors can be seen in the quarterly vacancy data, which starts in 2015. The vacancy rate (the number of vacancies as a percentage of total available positions) has shot upward in the accommodation and food services industries since the start of 2021 (see Figure 9).

Figure 8 Source: Statistics Canada. Table 14-10-0372-01  Job vacancies, payroll employees, and job vacancy rate by industry sector, monthly, unadjusted for seasonality

Figure 9 Source: Statistics Canada. Table 14-10-0326-01  Job vacancies, payroll employees, job vacancy rate, and average offered hourly wage by industry sector, quarterly, unadjusted for seasonality

Employment by Sector

In December, most sectors of the economy employed more workers than they did two years ago. And there were more employed workers as well. Seasonally unadjusted employment has increased by 283,300 since since December 2019. Among the six sectors where employment levels are still lower than they were pre-pandemic, the accommodation and food services sector has lost the most employees by far (see Figure 10).

Figure 10 Source: Statistics Canada. Table 14-10-0036-01  Actual hours worked by industry, monthly, unadjusted for seasonality

Total Unemployed and Unemployment Rate

The number of unemployed individuals fell for the fourth month in a row this December. There were 49,500 more unemployed workers this December than in December 2019, but the number of unemployed workers was also lower than in January and February of 2020. It was also lower than in November 2019. Thus, the number of people seeking work is back to pre-pandemic levels (see Figure 11).

The seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate was 5.4% in December (the adjusted rate was 5.9%).  This is likely to change when January’s data is released, as the restrictions put in place to counter the spread of the Omicron variant will have put people out of work—particularly in the tourism industry. Unemployment will increase, although the restrictions may be shorter lived than during past waves. If so, workers will be more likely to return to their former jobs. The longer the businesses are closed, or operating at limited capacity, the more likely it is that yet more tourism workers will find employment in other industries.

Figure 11 Source: Statistics Canada. Table 14-10-0017-01  Labour force characteristics by sex and detailed age group, monthly, unadjusted for seasonality (x 1,000)

Not in the Labour Force – Not Employed, Not Seeking Work

The number of people not actively engaging in the labour force continued to increase in December (see Figure 12). This is a common trend for this time of year. The number of people not active in the labour force (not employed or actively seeking a job), usually climbs through the fall and early winter before declining again starting in February or March.

The number of people who were not in the labour force but wanted to work also increased slightly, by 8,800. These are individuals who may be enticed to return to work. However, there are barriers which prevent them from active labour force participation and can be difficult to surmount. As of December, there were 386,600 individuals who wanted to work but were unable, for various reasons (see Figure 15).

The participation rate is the percentage of the population over the age of 15 that is either employed or actively seeking work. The overall participation rate is lower than it was two years ago, but this is due to lower participation among those over 65. Among the 15 to 64 age group, participation is higher than it was two years ago (see Figure 14). This is a good thing as it means more of Canada’s population is working, or looking for work. There are always some people who are unable to actively participate in the labour market at some point because they are retired, ill, a student, or for other reasons. A higher participation rate is generally good for the economy, but the higher it climbs, the harder it is to draw more people into active participation in the labour force. For sectors that are still seeking to restaff, higher participation rates are a double-edged sword, especially when unemployment has fallen.

Figure 12 Source: Statistics Canada. Table 14-10-0017-01 Labour force characteristics by sex and detailed age group, monthly, unadjusted for seasonality (x 1,000)

Figure 13 Source: Statistics Canada. Table 14-10-0127-01 Reason for not looking for work, monthly, unadjusted for seasonality (x 1,000)

Figure 14 Source: Statistics Canada. Table 14-10-0287-01  Labour force characteristics, monthly, seasonally adjusted and trend-cycle, last 5 months

Figure 15 Source: Statistics Canada. Table 14-10-0127-01  Reason for not looking for work, monthly, unadjusted for seasonality (x 1,000)

A Tightening Labour Market

Even with a slight increase in tourism employment this December, the annual data clearly shows how far tourism employment has fallen from its pre-pandemic highs. On a monthly basis the number of workers in the sector fluctuates, but with annual data we can safely say that our industry needs approximately 400,000 workers to return to pre-COVID levels of employment. This has been driven by repeated rounds of businesses closures and limitations on business activity and travel that forced tourism workers out of their jobs. Many found jobs in other industries. The Canadian labour market returned to pre-pandemic status several months ago. Unemployment is low and people 15 to 64 are participating in the labour force more than before the pandemic. This leaves limited avenues for sectors of the economy such as tourism to find former workers.

And although the monthly data showed an increase in employment this December, we also know that later in the month many current tourism workers lost their jobs once more. Just how many will be answered when January data is released in early February. Hopefully, business closures and restrictions will not last as long as during other waves. Having come during the holiday season, however, is going to severely hurt hospitality businesses. Even as restrictions lift, some businesses will find it difficult to fully reopen at this time of year.

If businesses can reopen quickly, tourism workforce losses may be limited. The longer former tourism employees are out of work, the more likely they are to find jobs in other industries. The tourism industry has a major challenge in the coming months. Let’s say Omicron is the final major wave of the pandemic. If that is the case, there will be significant lifting of restrictions and a resurgence of travel this summer. We won’t get back to 2019 levels, but there will be a lot more demand for tourism than there has been for the past two years. Tourism businesses will need to find a lot of lost workers. We will have the usual summer increase of employment from students and other young people, but it is the long-term, year-round employees that were lost that must be replaced. Without them, the summer youth cohort is not enough to meet demand.

We also need to recognize that the workforce has given our industry a hard look these past two years. Sentiment towards the tourism sector as a place of work has taken a negative turn. The long-term workers that have been lost are not coming back—at least not in significant numbers. We need to figure out how to attract enough workers in the short, medium, and long term. The successful and sustainable recovery of our visitor economy depends on all of us collaborating to make ourselves a more attractive place to work, because we need to convert new hires into long-term tourism employees and future industry leaders.

View more employment charts and analysis on our Tourism Employment Tracker.

Tourism HR Canada invites employers, students, and educators to a virtual info session for its Propel Student Work Placement Program on Wednesday, January 19, at 1:00pm Eastern Time.

Propel offers tourism and hospitality employers access to up to $7,500 in wage subsidies when they hire a post-secondary student for work-integrated learning: an internship, a co-op placement, a work experience placement, and more.

The many benefits? Students gain paid hands-on learning and mentoring in their field of study. Employers acquire much-needed early talent to help with the recovery of the industry, as well as assistance with wages. Post-secondary institutions complement their programming by connecting students and the workplace.

Join this one-hour virtual session to learn:
• What work-integrated learning is, why it matters, and how it can benefit your business
• Who qualifies for the Propel program
• Where to post a job
• How to apply for a wage subsidy
• What information you’ll need
• When the subsidy is available
• How Tourism HR Canada can support you

A Q&A component will follow the presentation. Registrants can submit questions in advance via the registration form.

Join Tourism HR Canada on Wednesday, January 19, at 1:00pm Eastern for a full look at this newly available program to support the hard-hit tourism and hospitality sector.

Click here to register.

This program is funded by the Government of Canada’s Student Work Placement Program.

Graduates of the Destination Inclusion program, which offers free learning and mentorship opportunities to racialized individuals in communities across Eastern Ontario, continue to share how the program has impacted them.

Participant Youssef Skalli recently explained how the program has played a key role in his lifelong learning journey:

Within my pro bono coaching activities, I engaged with a passionate group of young professional front desk agents in the tourism industry that needed support to structure their transferable skills. After 45 minutes of active listening, my intellectual curiosity about this job was climbing. I wanted to know more about what is behind those calm and smiling faces we meet every time we check in/out of a hotel.

Thanks to World Skills and Tourism HR Canada, I could enroll in the Destination Inclusion learning program.

The moment I started the first self-paced e-learning module related to the front desk agent role, my curiosity along with my respect to that crucial role for any hotel team didn’t stop growing.

I am so glad that I took this complete course; it is a great addition to my lifelong learning journey. Front desk agents are not only those (most of the time) friendly and professional individuals greeting us whenever we step into a hotel reception. The job requires a variety of leadership and communication skills which implies also strong resilience, accountability, teamwork, business acumen, health and safety awareness…

I believe we are all “front desk agents” at one moment or the other, whether in our personal or professional life. 

A great learning, thank you Destination Inclusion team!

Delivered in partnership with the World Skills Employment Centre and the Ottawa Community Immigrant Services Organization (OCISO), the Destination Inclusion program will continue to run through to the end of March 2022.

Registration is ongoing, and interested applicants are invited to find more information—including how to sign up for an upcoming virtual information session—at destinationinclusion.ca.

Employers wishing to connect with Destination Inclusion graduates and tourism professionals interested in mentoring participants are invited to email info@destinationinclusion.ca.


This Employment Ontario program is funded in part by the Government of Canada and the Government of Ontario

Please be advised that an error with the Government of Canada’s Tourism and Hospitality Recovery Program (THRP) calculation spreadsheet may have resulted in some applicants mistakenly receiving a message that they were not eligible for application period 22 (October 24 to November 20, 2021).

The following information is taken directly from the THRP website. If you have any questions or concerns, please visit the webpage for contact information.

Error in spreadsheet for wage and hiring support may have affected your eligibility

A previous version of the spreadsheet for wage and hiring may have shown you were not eligible for the THRP, when in fact you may be eligible.

Who this error may affect

You may have been affected if:

  • You were applying for period 22 (October 24 to November 20, 2021)
  • You used a version of the spreadsheet for wage and hiring (version 2021-1) that was available between Tuesday, December 21, 2021 at 6:00 am ET and Friday, December 24, 2021 at 12:00 pm ET
  • You indicated you are a qualifying tourism or hospitality entity and had both a current-month revenue drop and 12-month average revenue drop over 40%
  • Step 5 in the spreadsheet showed a zero dollar amount and gave the message that you were not eligible for the THRP

This error was only present in the calculation spreadsheet for wage and hiring support.

What to do if you think you have been affected by this error

If you did not apply for period 22:

If you already applied for the HHBRP – Wage or CRHP for period 22:

  • Contact the Business Enquiries line at 1-800-959-5525 to make your THRP – Wage application

On behalf of the Tourism HR Canada team, I wish you and yours a happy and healthy new year. I know that 2022 has arrived under incredibly challenging circumstances. Our hard-hit tourism sector has been dealt another blow as the Omicron variant rages. In addition to the worry and uncertainty around the virus itself, the impact of the measures put in place to try to mitigate its effects will be strongly felt by most employers and employees in our industry. Please know that we are here to assist however we can. We continue to update our COVID portal with the current federal programs available to you, and ensure our mental health resource page links to the latest guidance and support.

And while we acknowledge the current struggle, there is reason for optimism. Advancements with vaccines and treatments for COVID continue to emerge. Actions to support our sector are being undertaken by governments, industry associations, and advocacy bodies across Canada. In the fall, we saw the launch of the Tourism and Hospitality Recovery Program (THRP), which will provide rent and wage subsidies to qualifying businesses. The Canada Recovery Hiring Program (CRHP) also offers employers assistance with wages. For workers, the Canada Worker Lockdown Benefit, the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit, and the Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit all offer various income supports.

Looking ahead, I am pleased to share that the Government of Canada confirmed funding for two three-year projects for Tourism HR Canada:

(1) Maintaining a Foundational Labour Market Forecasting and Intelligence System

This initiative sees the continuation of the labour market research and analysis that is core to our mandate. We will continue to track and share the latest data around our workforce to show the impact of the pandemic to date and the projected impacts on recovery and rehiring. This information is crucial to the development and implementation of smart, targeted programs to rebuild a strong and sustainable visitor economy. Ongoing updates to this information are provided through our Employment Tracker, and new studies and reports will be released throughout the duration of this project.

(2) Tourism Workforce Recovery: Helping Restore 100,000s of Jobs and Build Resilience

This project encompasses several initiatives to secure tourism’s revival, including:

  • updated and new information and tools to address post-pandemic labour market issues, with a focus on the attraction and retention of a skilled workforce and on skills upgrading for both workers and tourism operators to respond to unprecedented market changes;
  • a secure, stable, and adaptive learning management infrastructure to support post-pandemic priorities and enable the organization to adapt, evolve, and execute a digital strategy to help businesses address essential workforce needs;
  • new training and micro-credentials in high-demand skills areas that further promote improved diversity, inclusion, and anti-oppressive practices and in skills areas that have high transferability/marketability in the labour market (this focus on retooling skills is in direct response to COVID-19, with the aim of accelerating recovery of the tourism workforce); and
  • new online, customizable workforce management tools for employers and intermediaries (e.g., career development practitioners, educators) to foster stronger attachments to the workforce for both job seekers and workers.

This funding was part of a December announcement made around federal support to the tourism sector. It demonstrates the priority attached to this sector and to the work we do. Tourism HR Canada has, perhaps, never been more important to the industry. The next three years will steadfastly focus on the recovery of the workforce. As we say in our mandate, our aim is to build a resilient, competitive, and inclusive labour market.

I’d like to gratefully acknowledge the Government of Canada’s generous funding and ongoing support of our work. A sincere thanks also goes out to our partners and stakeholders, who continue to collaborate, communicate, and innovate to ensure we succeed in our shared goal of restoring a resilient and prosperous Canadian tourism sector. And, of course, a heartfelt thank you to the individuals across the country who are connected to the tourism realm, whether as employers, employees, entrepreneurs, students, or educators—your passion for this industry is what makes Canada a world-class destination and what will ignite travel’s revival.

With very best wishes,

Philip Signature

Philip Mondor

President and CEO, Tourism HR Canada