Tourism has been severely limited since COVID-19 closed international borders, and it still has a long way to go on the road to recovery. The journey will not be without challenges, but there is room for hope.
To assess the state of business conditions and the workforce, in the late winter and early spring of 2021, Tourism HR Canada conducted two national surveys of tourism businesses. The national results are contained in two COVID-19 Tourism Workforce and Business Impact Reports.
The first of these two surveys was conducted in January and February. Businesses were still dealing with the restrictions of the pandemic’s second wave.
Download the COVID-19 Tourism Workforce Impact Wave 1 Detailed Report
Download the COVID-19 Tourism Workforce Impact Wave 1 National Report
The second survey gathered information from business operators in March and April, when, following a brief lifting of restrictions, more transmissible variants drove a third wave of the pandemic in almost all regions of Canada.
Download the COVID-19 Tourism Workforce Impact Wave 2 National Report
During the winter, only 5.9% of tourism businesses could fully open without any limitations or restrictions on their operations. Most businesses were placed under tighter restrictions, and 62.5% reported having to release staff due to those restrictions.
Over half of tourism businesses took on debt to survive, and three-quarters have maintained their core staff—even at a financial loss—to keep the business operating. Among firms that have taken on debt, the majority are concerned that it will hamper their ability to recover.
Almost half of the businesses were using the Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) to subsidize wages. Importantly for the upcoming summer, many businesses stayed in touch with staff that they had been forced to release.
Besides the CEWS, businesses were accessing several other supports—though none was as popular as CEWS. In addition to federal support programs, 37.2% of businesses were also accessing support provided by the provincial/territorial government, municipal government, or other organizations. Despite the number of businesses accessing these supports, half reported that harnessing government supports was an area in which they required guidance. Concerningly, 43.1% of respondents to the first survey said they were not currently receiving the financial support they needed to remain viable.
Looking forward to summer, the greatest concerns tourism business owners have are another shutdown, travel restrictions on Canadians, and a lack of traveller confidence. Almost half of businesses fear that an inability to hire staff will negatively affect their business operations. Those concerned about staffing fear that workers will choose EI benefits over returning to work, that there are not enough workers in the region, or that they will face stiff competition for workers from other industries.
In terms of what they need this summer, businesses are very clear that they want to see straightforward communication on reopening timelines, clear communication on protocols, and marketing that encourages domestic travel.