Author: Tourism HR Canada

The news last week of Anthony Bourdain’s death by suicide was a shock and saddened millions of fans who shared Bourdain’s wonderment at the world around him and at our shared humanity, aspirations and dreams, which he explored through travel and cuisine. The news was also a reminder that despite outward appearances and behaviours, many people are dealing with inner demons that can be exacerbated by numerous factors, including workplace stress.

Workplace stress is prevalent in every sector of the economy and in pretty much every job. For those working in tourism and hospitality, a certain level of stress is normal—even healthy in some instances. From long lines of exhausted travellers at the front desk to the table of six with their laundry list of food intolerances and reminders that they are in a hurry, stress is unavoidable in most positions.

Another very tangible stress in parts of our sector is the shortage of available labour to meet demand. Discussion around skills shortages generally includes how the lack of qualified staff will negatively impact business growth, but not how ongoing shortages are impacting the work-life balance and stress levels of owners and current employees. While various levels of government and industry groups look to tackle this challenge, employers and managers can take steps now to ensure they are not adding stress without the practices and support to help employees navigate the situation. How stress is managed and channelled is key to its impact on an individual employee.

Tourism requires leaders who have not only ambition, drive and the IQ needed to succeed, but also the willingness to cultivate their Emotional Intelligence Quotient (EIQ). EIQ is a set of abilities related to the understanding, use, and management of emotions as it relates to one’s self and others. Leaders who possess or cultivate these skills can:

  • Help mitigate the impact of workplace bullying
  • Improve team dynamics
  • Build a more inclusive, welcoming, productive, and less stressed environment for their employees

In general, we’ve recently seen a decline in civil discourse and empathy toward our fellow human beings. The root causes of this move away from civility are too numerous to broach here, so we’ll save the deep dive for a manifesto. That said, there are tangible examples of why abhorrent behaviour is becoming more commonplace in tourism and hospitality. One need only look at the litany of TV shows featuring the foul-mouthed, acerbic manner of Gordon Ramsey or his ilk brow-beating employees and employers alike to see this behaviour on display. Many are likely decent humans who are merely portraying characters prone to hyperbole and overbearing behaviour, but the influence on society and how that is reflected in the workplace cannot—and should not—be diminished.

Here are some workplace practices that can foster a positive mental attitude and provide the tools, procedures, and knowledge employees can access if they are having difficulties:

1. Create a healthy environment.
Employers need to be aware of the type of lifestyle they are promoting among their workers. In many businesses, and especially prevalent in bars and restaurants, hard work and stress are expressed through a hard-partying lifestyle once a shift is finished. While this approach may work for some short-term, it can often exacerbate the problem. Some constructive initiatives could include:

  • Encourage physical activity. If viable, assist employees with memberships to health clubs or time for a yoga session in a nearby park.
  • Dedicate part of regular staff meetings to sharing information about stress management and encourage the team to assist management in finding healthy outlets for stress and depression.
  • Ensure employees feel comfortable discussing the topic with managers/employers. Make sure the manager/employer has taken training or has the skills to render advice and assistance.

2. Assist employees to identify mental health risks.

Mental health is a very personal and private thing for most people, but that does not mean they are not looking for information to assist them in dealing with stress or depression. This is where an employer can find non-intrusive ways of providing help. Consider these practices:

  • When conducting annual performance reviews, include links to local mental health providers. This allows the employee to reach out independently, while also demonstrating that the employer cares about employees’ well-being.
  • Pay attention to what is going on with workplace culture. Listen to concerns and complaints, and address them. This can help build the trust needed by many to be open and receptive to advice and help.

3. Provide employees with information on how to access help.

Despite your best efforts, there will be employees who will never feel comfortable speaking directly to a supervisor or co-worker about mental health concerns, but we need to ensure these people do not fall through the cracks. Include sources of assistance in employee manuals, onboarding sessions, locker room posters, etc.

4. Be civil!

One might think this is obvious, but we are reminded daily that practices like the Golden Rule (treat others as you want to be treated) have somehow fallen by the wayside. An important attribute of being civil is listening to the people around you. Take ten seconds to understand what is being said before deciding on your answer and try to see the situation from the other person’s perspective before responding based your own. Some additional practices in building a healthier and more civil workplace include:

  • Set the example. Creating and cultivating a healthy, civil workplace starts with a company’s leadership. Workplace culture, norms, and practices often reflect the actions and behaviours of leaders.
  • Do not tolerate rude or aggressive behaviour and have stated, tangible repercussions that are enforced. Rude and uncivilized behaviour can be contagious, so dealing with the situation quickly, fairly, and consistently is a key factor in controlling behaviour.
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate. Open and honest communication flow is important in every workplace. Establish mechanisms for employees to air grievances or concerns, as well as a feedback process for management to address them. A lack of dialogue between colleagues and between employees and management can sometimes foster a feeling that things are being withheld, which can be highly stressful and lead to negative or suspicious thinking. Being open and seeking input from everyone fosters a sense of inclusion and allows employees to make meaningful contributions to growing a healthy and productive workplace.

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Tourism HR Canada is delighted to announce that Darlene Grant Fiander has been selected by the Board of Directors as its new Chair. Her tenure becomes effective at the upcoming June 20 Board meeting, to be held in Ottawa.

Darlene will build on the Board’s mandate and the progress made through changing governmental and business environments and the organization’s restructuring and renewal.

Currently President of the Tourism Industry Association of Nova Scotia (TIANS) and Executive Director of the Nova Scotia Tourism Human Resource Council (NSTHRC), Darlene is a longtime member of the Tourism HR Canada Board and brings more than 20 years of experience in Canadian tourism and human resources. TIANS is a non-profit organization representing over 1000 private sector businesses in tourism throughout Nova Scotia, while NSTHRC works with employers and employees to build a sustainable and healthy tourism workforce.

A graduate of Mount Saint Vincent University, Darlene has held various management positions within the tourism industry. She is a past president of Canada CHRIE—a group representing educators and industry associations in Canada—and a past Chair of the Nova Scotia Association of Industry Sector Councils. Darlene was the inaugural recipient of the Hotel Association of Canada (HAC) Hall of Fame Award for leadership in human resources.

Darlene replaces William Pallett as Chair; Bill served in the role for six years, and will continue to provide guidance and historical perspective to the Board in his new role as Past Chair. The Tourism HR Canada team and Board members past and present thank him for his ongoing support and his dedication to building a world-leading tourism workforce.

Please join us in welcoming Darlene to this key role in guiding Tourism HR Canada as we strengthen and connect Canada’s tourism sector.

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Tourism HR Canada is delighted to announce that Jesse Tiefenbach has accepted its 2018 Distinguished HR Service Award, formally recognizing his significant contributions to growing a world-leading tourism workforce.

The award is presented annually to individuals or groups that demonstrate leadership in advancing human resource management practices that contribute to economic and social benefits for workers and the Canadian tourism sector.

Jesse is Chief Human Resource Officer for d3h Hotels, which manages 14 hotels throughout Alberta and Saskatchewan, employing over 300 people. He is dedicated to developing d3h and its employees through the use of innovative HR management practices.

“It is truly a privilege to have been chosen for the Distinguished HR Service Award,” said Jesse. “We certainly work hard as a business to ensure we are doing everything that we can for our amazing people. I’ve worked with d3h for 11 years and I’ve always understood how critical a well-functioning and forward-thinking HR department truly is. As a company, we understand that it is our people who take care of the guests we serve on a daily basis. As such, we do our best to ensure we take care of our people. We celebrate our 20th year in business in 2018; this methodology is time tested and has been incredibly successful for us.”

Jesse began his career with d3h at the age of 17, working at the Days Inn Medicine Hat as a front desk agent for what was planned to be a summer job. Catching the eye of d3h management, however, he quickly advanced into positions of increasing responsibility, and in three years was at the helm of the group’s 10th hotel, the Days Inn Regina Airport West. His success there led to being part of the launch of further properties, earning his emerit® Certified Hotel General Manager credential, and being recognized by Tourism Saskatchewan as a Tourism Ambassador.

His people skills, enthusiasm, and passion for hospitality then saw him move to d3h’s head office, where he became Training and Employment Manager, travelling among the group’s properties to support staff. Promoted to his current title, he now oversees all areas of HR for all d3h hotels, and became a d3h Hotels partner and an employer representative of the Agriculture, Tourism and Service Sector for the Saskatchewan Apprenticeship and Trade Certification Commission (SATCC), where he has helped to create higher standards for trades within the industry.

Jesse is a strong supporter of training, certification, and apprenticeship, encouraging staff to partake in several programs:

  • emerit® national certification programs and related training
  • SATCC’s Guest Services Representative Apprenticeship Program (and resulting Journeyperson status)
  • Saskatchewan Tourism Education Council (STEC)’s World Host program

This and other progressive HR practices have earned d3h the STEC Employer of Choice (EOC) designation; one of their properties has been an EOC from the inception of the program in 2010.  Highlights of current HR programs include:

  1. A robust health benefits program, modified every few years based on the needs of employees
  2. An in-house incentive program to encourage staff improvement and retention
  3. A travel rewards program to spark a passion for tourism in employees
  4. A Manager in Training program to help groom and retain incredible managers—50% of the current senior hotel management team participated in the program, testifying to its success.

Additionally, d3h offers yearly staff recognition awards:

  • Random acts of kindness awards are presented to employees who go the extra mile, whether with guests or colleagues.
  • Heart of courage awards are presented to individuals who have overcome personal tragedy or illness in their lives. The award lifts spirits and shows the hotel’s support.
  • Platinum awards are presented to three individuals who truly exemplify d3h’s core values and live them out in their day to day interactions. The winners receive a $3000 travel voucher to travel anywhere in the world.

Jesse adds, “All in all, our goal is to have strong employee engagement. We try to touch base with our employees frequently to really listen and hear what they would like. We conduct an annual employee survey which gives us great insight towards trends. Our senior leadership team then uses this information to structure town hall meetings, or what we like to call “Round Tables”, at each hotel. They allow us the opportunity to sit and talk with all staff across Alberta and Saskatchewan. It is a phenomenal tool for us to use and has been a big part of why we are so connected to our staff.”

Tourism HR Canada is announcing this award as part of Tourism Week, and will present the award later this June, at STEC’s Leadership Conference and Recognition Dinner. Our congratulations to Jesse on his accomplishments, and best wishes for d3h’s continued success.

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Tourism HR Canada is pleased to announce the Banff & Lake Louise Hospitality Association (BLLHA) as this year’s recipient of its annual Leadership Award, recognizing its contribution to advancing progressive HR practices in Canada’s tourism sector.

The BLLHA serves as a strong advocate for the accommodation, food and beverage, and tourism sector in one of the most beautiful places on Earth. In its role as an industry advocate, the association works with local industry on common political and economic interests that benefit everyone in the region.

Tourism HR Canada first took note of BLLHA’s proactive and innovative approach to HR issues and advocacy a few years ago, and has worked with the association to supply the labour market data it needs to focus its efforts and make compelling arguments for supporting new initiatives.

Three initiatives in particular demonstrated BLLHA’s commitment to building mutually beneficial partnerships to supply much-needed employees to businesses in the national park, while also providing opportunities for professional development and a chance at meaningful, stable employment to those looking for a career.

  1. Partnering with Royal Roads University on a pilot project to offer 30 international students (the majority from China) a multi-day, hands-on opportunity to undergo training in various hotels, exposing them to different departments and workplace team dynamics.
  2. Spearheading a workforce development initiative that included awarding $500 bursaries to nine deserving individuals, allowing them to complete or augment their education/training. The bursaries covered a wide range of employment opportunities available in the hospitality sector in Banff.
  3. Reaching out to potential Indigenous partners to attract and support more participation from the local Indigenous community, improving the area’s labour challenges. The program connected workers from the Stoney Nation with hard-to-fill hospitality jobs in Banff and Lake Louise. The initiative addressed two challenges: providing employment opportunities to Stoney Nation residents and connecting job seekers with companies in need of hundreds of staff during peak season.

BLLHA continues to think outside the box and explore new and innovative ways of addressing labour shortages that—like the rest of Canada—are projected to continue for the foreseeable future. The association’s approach is something other community associations can look to for ideas and inspiration.

Upon receiving word of the award, BLLHA President Trevor Long stated, “The Banff & Lake Louise Hospitality Association is truly honoured to receive the award for Outstanding Contribution to Advancing Progressive HR Practices. We have been blessed by the strong and ongoing support of our partners to explore new and innovative approaches to address our destination’s labour force needs. While some of our labour force recruitment and retention efforts have proven more successful than others, we are reminded that it is the sustained commitment to ‘reach further’ that matters.”

Tourism HR Canada is announcing this award as part of Tourism Week, and will present the award later this June, at BLLHA’s annual Board meeting. We congratulate the Banff & Lake Louise Hospitality Association and look forward to assisting with its ongoing and new initiatives by ensuring access to timely and accurate labour market data.

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A record 1.8 million Canadians worked in the tourism sector in 2016, recently released census data reveals. Those 1.8 million individuals account for 10.6% of all employed individuals in Canada. As a sector, tourism is the third-largest employer of Canadians, and is rapidly growing. The number of people employed in tourism has increased 11% since 2011, whereas the total number of people employed in Canada has grown just 3.8% in that same time.

Tourism HR Canada will be releasing a series of reports using 2016 census data. Up first: our national summary, profiling Canada’s tourism employees.

As a service sector, the individuals who work for us are key to tourism in Canada continuing to grow and thrive. To ensure our sector is not just a destination for tourists, but also a destination for Canadian workers, we must understand who works for us now. Tourism`s workforce:

  • Tends to be young
  • Includes a greater share of immigrants, Indigenous peoples, and visible minorities than the overall labour force
  • Has a greater share of individuals working part-time, many of whom are youth aged 15 to 24

As a sector, it employed more individuals than manufacturing, education services, construction, professional, scientific and technical services, or public administration!

Over the next few months, we will be using the census data to profile each tourism industry group and five demographic segments of the workforce that are of particular importance to tourism. Look for these reports in the coming months:

  • Accommodations
  • Food & beverage services
  • Recreation & entertainment
  • Transportation
  • Travel services
  • Indigenous peoples
  • Youth
  • Mature workers
  • Workers reporting a disability
  • Immigrants & non-permanent residents

These reports present a fraction of the available data—there is also information for each province and territory and for 20 census metropolitan areas. For details on your region, email research@tourismhr.ca.

Tourism Week in Canada, held May 27 to June 2 this year, is a time to celebrate the economic impact and social benefits of tourism across this country.

Tourism is a major employer of Canadians, with 1.8 million people working in tourism-related jobs in all regions of the country. That’s 10.6% of all workers in Canada.

Destination Canada reported a record-setting 20.8 million visitors in 2017, and international tourism revenues topped $21 billion. Tourism spending represents 2% of our GDP.

The Government of Canada’s New Tourism Vision seeks to grow and support the sector, and sets the following targets:

  • Canada will compete to be one of the Top Ten most visited countries in the world by 2025.
  • The number of international overnight visits to Canada will increase by 30% by 2021.
  • The number of tourists from China will double by 2021.

Tourism is thriving and is poised to grow even further. In a sector that relies on personal interactions—whether it’s the agent checking someone in, the driver on the way to the hotel, the server at the must-try restaurant, the guide at the gallery, gate attendant at the waterpark, or the sales clerk helping to select an umbrella to replace that one you left by the front door (we’ve all done it, right?)—it’s vital to have an ample number of skilled, passionate people working at the 200,000 businesses across the country.

Labour shortages are a reality in many regions of the country—for some occupations, in all regions. They impact growth, as business owners as forced to scale back on investments, reduce hours, or close altogether. In a sector with a high percentage of small businesses, many owner-operators are doing the work of multiple people, causing burnout. These factors impact service levels, causing visitors to potentially have a less-than-welcoming stay here. With a world of options, they may travel elsewhere next time—and advise their friends to do the same.

We all want to maintain a sustainable and competitive tourism sector—but even with recently increased immigration targets, we’re facing a possible 60,000 unfilled tourism jobs by 2035.

Let’s be proactive. Working together, we can develop effective strategies around the attraction, retention, and training of employees.

Through our labour market supply and demand reports, we examine ways we can address the shortage. These include:

  • Businesses, governments, and industry associations collaborating to build policies that make tourism a destination for employment
  • Raising the profile of the sector to capture the career paths and managerial roles available
  • Matching those seeking employment with tourism jobs
  • Dispelling myths about low pay and long hours as the norm
  • Highlighting the sector as a place to gain valuable work experience and skills
  • Broadening attraction efforts to include Indigenous peoples, people with disabilities, and new arrivals to Canada
  • Continuing to analyze immigration targets, including the categories

And let’s remember that keeping valuable employees is the best way to avoid shortages—training and innovative HR policies allow employees to feel supported, grow in their roles, advance in an organization, and be recognized for their contributions and dedication.

As we celebrate Tourism Week, let’s be sure to recognize and thank the dedicated professionals working across the country. They are our greatest asset, and careful thought and planning will make sure we can inspire even more to join us in breaking records.

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(seasonally unadjusted)

In April 2018, the unemployment rate1 in the tourism sector was at 5.1%, which is 0.8 percentage points lower than the rate reported in April 2017, and lower than the previous month (March 2018) when the unemployment rate stood at 6.4%.

At 5.1%, tourism’s unemployment rate was below Canada’s seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate of 6.1%.

Except for Recreation & Entertainment and Travel Services, all tourism industry groups have reported lower unemployment rates than the same month last year (Table 1).

On a provincial basis, tourism unemployment rates ranged from 4.0% in Ontario to 19.5% in Prince Edward Island.

The seasonally unadjusted unemployment rates for tourism in each province, except for Prince Edward Island, were below the rates reported for the provincial economy (Figure 1).

Tourism employment comprised 11.2% of the total Canadian labour force for the month of April.

Table 1 – Employment Rate by Tourism Industry Group – April 2017/2018
Tourism Industry Group2 Unemployment Rate –
April 2017
Unemployment Rate –
April 2018
Tourism 5.9% 5.1%
Accommodations 11.4% 8.9%
Food and Beverage 5.6% 4.4%
Recreation and Entertainment 7.1% 7.7%
Transportation 2.4% 2.3%
Travel Services 3.1% 4.4%
Figure 1 – Tourism Sector vs. Total Labour Force Unemployment Rates by Province (Seasonally Unadjusted)

1 To determine unemployment rates, industrial (NAICS) classifications are based on the most recent job held within the past year, and are self-identified by the respondent. Unemployed persons are those who, during the reference period, were available for work but were on temporary layoff, were without work, or were to start a new job within four weeks.

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. Source: Statistics Canada Labour Force Survey, customized tabulations. Based on data for the week ending April, 2018.