Heading Towards Sustainable Growth: Integrating the New UN Standard on Sustainable Tourism into the Labour Market Landscape

In the Canadian tourism sector, sustainability must serve as both a compass and a destination. The natural wonders that Canada offers can draw tourists from around the world, but only to the extent that they are protected. Additionally, our ability to deliver high-quality service to these guests depends on a skilled, diverse, and well-supported workforce. Both of these dimensions of sustainability—the environment and the social footprint in the community—are reflected in the UN’s new global standard to measure the sustainability of tourism.

At Tourism HR Canada, we welcome this new standard. We look forward to reshaping our labour market intelligence systems to reflect this new framework, and to aligning our work with the UN’s broader Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) impacting partnerships, quality education, reduced inequalities, and decent work and economic growth. This new undertaking will inform and influence all our core labour market initiatives.

Informing Policy and Programs

Tourism HR Canada maintains a foundational labour market system for the tourism sector, and our ongoing analysis and research efforts form the cornerstone of evidence-based policymaking. Integrating these new standards into our methodologies and approaches will not be immediate—there are many practical and empirical details to be worked out in collaboration with our industry partners—but the process itself has the potential to transform how we understand the labour market in our sector, and how we identify the best policy and program solutions to meet the challenges of tomorrow.

Supporting Tourism Businesses and Employers

With shifting labour force expectations and increasingly challenging operating conditions, tourism businesses are looking for an edge. Competition is fierce for the workers that are out there, and the skills that our young workforce members develop in tourism make them highly attractive to employers outside of tourism.

One of the tools businesses can use to level the playing field of a wage landscape that favours other sectors is the fact that tourism is inherently well positioned to embrace sustainability as a broad philosophy and associated set of business practices. Our role in facilitating this transition is to provide concrete recommendations that will benefit businesses, benchmarking best practices across our industries and against other sectors, as well as developing accessible management tools and training resources.

Providing Research-Led Industry Models

Realigning the sector with these new standards will take time, and will need to rely on a new understanding of how tourism operates as a standalone sector and how it interacts with the larger national and regional economies that support it.

The new UN standards will inform our analysis of the sector, where we will look closely at the interconnectedness of people, places, and systems to develop human-centred industry models. These models will reflect the complexities and nuances of the Canadian tourism ecosystems, and will ultimately feed into our sustainable workforce planning initiatives around attraction, training, retention, and compensation within a values-culture framework.

Our aim is to set new industry standards that will not only meet the needs of today, but also anticipate the challenges and opportunities of tomorrow—and provide adaptable tools to meet those challenges head-on.

Informing Industry and Government Efforts Towards Sustainability

Industry stakeholders and various government agencies have been actively engaged in efforts to promote sustainability within the tourism sector. Destination marketing/management organizations have been instrumental in developing and supporting eco-friendly initiatives, businesses have been leaders in adopting sustainability practices, and governments at various levels have been key players in addressing environmental and infrastructure challenges facing the long-term viability of the sector.

Across the board, there is a growing recognition of the importance of environmental and social stewardship, community engagement, and the role that Indigenous tourism can play in promoting and sustaining reconciliation across the country.

Tourism HR Canada is committed to supporting all of our partners across the tourism ecosystem in their efforts to invest in sustainability and to embed sustainable practices throughout our sector. As we update our research and sector-monitoring systems to reflect the UN’s new framework, we will continue to supply the best and most reliable data, analysis, and intelligence to inform policy and program development.

Our core mandate is to build a resilient, competitive, and inclusive labour market for the tourism sector. The adoption of these new standards will help us keep our agenda current and responsive to the needs of our sector—and will build and sustain the tourism workforce of tomorrow.

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