10 Reasons Why 10 Percent Matters

Tourism touches everyone—and can transform communities

Tourism is big business. Around 10% of working Canadians work in tourism, whether or not they realize it. The tourism workforce is 2 million strong, working in 113,000 businesses across the country.

Between accommodations, food and beverage services, recreation and entertainment, transportation, and travel services, tourism industries generate over 4% of Canada’s GDP.

Tourism is all about people. It emphasizes social capital and cohesion, promotes inclusivity and diversity, contributes to cultural and heritage preservation, and offers an important pathway on the road to reconciliation. With more than 400 types of jobs in the sector, there are opportunities for anyone who wants to get involved.

Tourism is diverse. The sector offers exciting and accessible jobs for young people, for Indigenous people, for newcomers to Canada, for people with disabilities, for mature workers, for members of LGBTQ+ communities—there’s a place for everyone, and everyone is welcome. For some, tourism jobs are a launchpad where they will develop core employment skills that they will carry with them throughout their lives. For others, tourism itself offers incredibly rewarding and dynamic career options that will take them across the country and around the world.

Tourism is flexible. It offers all kinds of employment options—full time, part time, year-round, seasonal, casual, permanent—in core tourism occupations (in hotels, restaurants, tourist attractions) as well as in a wide range of support and related occupations (administration, digital technologies, marketing, social media).

Tourism is attractive. Young people, students, people in transition, and others entering the Canadian workforce for the first time are often drawn to tourism jobs that offer flexible hours, making it easier to accommodate other demands (such as education or caring responsibilities) and to find the right work-life balance to suit their needs. Mature and retired people look for tourism jobs to top up their income, to stay connected in their communities, to mentor young people, and to remain active. Entrepreneurs are attracted to the sector because it’s good business: the demand for uniquely Canadian experiences is boundless.

Number of Workers by Industry in Canada’s Tourism Sector
Travel ServicesAccommodationsTransportationRecreation and EntertainmentFood and Beverage Services
Source: Statistics Canada. 2023 Annual Labour Force Survey, customized tabulations

Tourism will continue to be an important economic sector for all regions of Canada. The growth of the visitor economy is outpacing many industries worldwide, and Canada has the opportunity to increase its share of the global tourism market and to increase its global standing and competitiveness—but to succeed, the sector must first attract, develop, and retain talent.

There are many economic, social, and political factors as to why tourism is important—all reasons why ongoing investment in tourism employment is important to Canada.

Here are the top ten.

  1. Tourism has high job growth potential. Tourism offers jobs that fit personal lifestyles and needs: accessible, entry-level jobs that enable people to earn an income while studying or caregiving; stable, well-paid middle-class jobs with highly sought transferable skills and multiple career paths; C-suite roles for those seeking leadership and advancement opportunities; highly mobile employment for people looking for adventure or who want to augment their income.
  2. Tourism employment is multifaceted and provides a rich learning environment. People in tourism acquire skills for life: skills that are in demand and transferable to many jobs, and which can help people participate in society or transition into other professions. Tourism operators invest in training to enable people to gain the language skills, Canadian workplace experience, social employability skills, and job-specific skills to succeed in the workforce and advance their career prospects.
  3. Tourism provides good jobs and rewarding careers. Good jobs are those with safe working conditions and stable, predictable incomes based on competitive wages or salaries. They provide opportunities for advancement, offer flexibility around other life commitments, and accommodate personal needs. Progressive employers invest in ongoing training and professional development, offer health benefits, and develop an inclusive and supportive workplace culture. Tourism workplaces are increasingly investing in these best practices, and the value placed on personalized services—particularly in light of digitalization and automation—makes tourism an ideal career path for people who like a human element.
  4. Tourism offers social advantages. Compared to the economy overall, tourism employs a higher percentage of under-represented groups in long-term, well-paid, skilled jobs. Tourism employment is one of the most important social structures that helps individuals better integrate into society and the world of work, and contributes to the social cohesion of communities. Because of its broad range of products and services, tourism offers multiple career and worker pathways that enable people to advance rapidly.
  5. Tourism supports reconciliation. Indigenous tourism provides a unique bridge between cultures in Canada, and supports the revitalization of languages, histories, and traditions that have been violently suppressed for centuries. Creating spaces to celebrate and share Indigenous knowledge can open dialogue between nations, while developing meaningful jobs and building economic sovereignty in Indigenous communities.
  6. Tourism encourages sustainability and regenerative practices. International travellers are drawn by the wilderness appeal of Canada, and Canadian tourism operators are deeply invested in protecting their local environments. Many of the products and services offered are based on a sustainable business development model: businesses factor in land use planning and conservation, waste reduction, and eco-efficiency to help reduce ecological impacts. The experiences they offer visitors are founded on their role as environmental stewards.
  7. Tourism provides business opportunities that can increase economic diversification. Communities dependent on declining industries are increasingly looking to tourism as a sustainable alternative. Tourism draws on the expertise of local people to provide authentic, tailored, compelling, quality experiences. Visitors are attracted to destinations for much more than the vista: they’re looking for transformative experiences involving local culture and customs. Diversifying economies involves an investment in human capital by reskilling or upskilling workers, which can transform the local workforce from the ground up. Because tourism builds on local resources, it can help create reliable and stable income in a region.
  8. Tourism creates an influx of wealth that contributes to the local economy overall. Income from tourism activities has a significant spin-off effect: money spent by visitors fuels economic activity in many other sectors. Infrastructure demands lead to construction jobs. Tourists seek additional services in banking and retail. Tourists spend locally, and when tourism operators are also local, that money stays in the community.
  9. Tourism enriches the Canadian identity. Tourism embodies the core values of the Canadian narrative: welcoming newcomers, embracing cultural diversity, promoting fairness and equality. By drawing on a diverse workforce and by creating authentic cultural experiences that appeal to Canadians and to international travellers alike, tourism promotes and reinforces what it means to be Canadian.
  10. Tourism is everywhere. Tourism employment exists in every corner of Canada, regardless of how many visitors an area currently entertains. The basic ingredients may already be there: an amazing location, a rich local culture and history, and a population ready to share their story. Tourism is foundational to the future of Canada’s economy, with jobs that will continue to flourish when other industries decline.

Not only is tourism important to Canada’s economy—today and tomorrow—it is also uniquely positioned to increase social capital and to reinforce core Canadian identities from coast to coast to coast.

Bottom line? Tourism employment shapes Canada’s identity by helping transform lives and communities. Investments in attracting, developing, and retaining workers are needed beyond the investments made for infrastructure and for incentivizing private investments. The sector—and indeed Canada—cannot thrive without a resilient and diverse tourism labour market.

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