In 2022, the tourism sector was still in flux, reeling from two years of major impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic.
To assess labour market needs resulting from the pandemic, as well as to gather information that will help support recovery in the tourism sector, Tourism HR Canada conducted a business intelligence survey, thanks to funding by Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC). Four additional survey waves will take place through to 2024.
In total, 700 businesses were interviewed by telephone survey.
A full report analyzing the results of this survey is now available as a free download, and highlights are provided below.
Current Operating Conditions of Tourism Businesses
Of those interviewed, 30% of businesses represented the accommodations industry, 29% recreation and entertainment, 15% travel services, 12% food and beverage services, and 12% transportation. Over three quarters (79%) were open with no limitations or restrictions. Those operating in Quebec reported the largest proportion of operating with restrictions.
A quarter (24%) of respondents had no paid employees, while the majority (47%) had between 1 and 19 employees. Three-quarters (74%) of businesses operate on an annual basis. Those who operate on a seasonal basis operate predominantly in the summer (91%), followed by fall (58%), and spring (55%).
Nearly two-thirds (63%) of businesses were owner-operator businesses, and 87% reported being in operation for over 10 years. Under half (43%) of businesses indicated having an annual gross revenue of less than $500,000. Just over a quarter (27%) of businesses operate in a rural or remote region.
Recruitment and Retention
Close to half (46%) of businesses interviewed actively had job vacancies; this finding was consistent across all industry groups. Of tourism businesses with job vacancies, on average there were six job vacancies at their place of business. Looking more closely at the industry-group level, accommodations and transportation businesses reported an average of eight job vacancies in each industry.
Nearly two-thirds (64%) of all businesses were experiencing difficulties with recruitment of workers, and 35% with retention. The greatest difficulties in recruitment and retention of certain occupations within the industry were as follows:
- Accommodations – Housekeeping (78%)
- Food and beverage services – Food preparation/Cooks (70%)
- Recreation and entertainment – Customer service representatives/sales (34%)
- Transportation – Drivers (73%)
- Travel services – Travel agents (60%)
For recruitment strategies, businesses indicated increasing recruitment efforts (23%) and using word of mouth (18%) to fill job vacancies. For retention strategies, businesses have improved wages, benefits, perks, incentives, etc. (45%); and created a culture of work-life balance (20%).
Only 16% of businesses reported using targeted recruitment practices for individuals from equity-seeking groups. Groups that are sought out include Indigenous peoples (40%), members of visible minorities (38%), and people with disabilities (33%).
Comparison to Previous Years of Operation
More than half (59%) of businesses indicated that their current operating conditions had improved when compared to the summer of 2021, with those in the travel services industry stating the greatest level of improvement (77%). For businesses whose operating conditions have weakened, 39% of these businesses were considering reducing operating hours and reducing product offerings (24%).
A quarter (26%) of respondents reported offering new types of products or services in 2022. Of those who offered new types of products or services, businesses experienced an increase in profits/revenue (20%) and an increase in customers (13%). One in ten businesses offered products or services over the internet for the first time in 2022, 60% of whom indicated that it improved their business operating conditions.
A quarter (24%) of businesses said they would be offering new types of products in the coming months. And of those who have not previously offered products over the internet, 7% indicated they would be doing so for the first time in the coming months.
Two-thirds (67%) of businesses were experiencing a form of business challenge. The top challenges included increased cost of production (non-labour) (46%) and labour issues (33%). These issues were the same as the top issues experienced in the previous four months. Of those who were actively experiencing labour issues and had done so in the past four months, 58% agreed that difficulty finding qualified, reliable employees and the shortage of skilled labour in the local area (45%) had had a great impact on their business.
Nearly one-in-three (29%) believed they would increase the number of employees within their business in the coming four months. This was primarily due to their operation growing. Of those increasing the number of their employees, 56% stated there was an insufficient number of qualified workers to meet their operation’s hiring needs. Of those who expected their number of employees to decrease, the primary reason was due to an expected decline in the number of visitors to the region.
Compared to 2021, the majority stated that all factors relating to employee training procedures had remained unchanged at their business. Only 24% of businesses stated that there had been an increase in the overall amount of staff training provided when compared to 2021.
Businesses reported that employee training had had a great impact on client/customer satisfaction (30%) and employee satisfaction (26%), while 64% and 71% of businesses indicated they had the capacity to provide training to supervisory/management staff and frontline staff, respectively.
Businesses in the tourism sector continued to experience concerns regarding the recruitment of employees. Growing businesses expressed a concern that there was an insufficient number of qualified workers to meet their hiring needs. There was an indication that businesses may feel that the tourism sector is experiencing a labour shortage.
With the removal of restrictions and the increase in business operations within tourism, there is an anticipated need for tourism employees to fulfil roles in high demand within the sector. Housekeeping, drivers, and food preparers/cooks are in high demand and businesses experience difficulties recruiting individuals with the required skill sets.
It is recommended that the tourism sector explore all sources of talent, whether they be in collaboration with post-secondary institutions or through international employment streams.
This project is funded by the Government of Canada
The opinions and interpretations in this publication are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Government of Canada.