Business Intelligence Survey Report

To keep up to date on labour market needs in the wake of the pandemic and through the gradual trajectory of recovery and regrowth, Tourism HR Canada has been conducting a series of business intelligence surveys, thanks to funding from Economic and Social Development Canada (ESDC).

This current report presents the fourth out of five waves of data that is being collected through to the end of 2024, tracking changes and/or measuring trends in the labour market and business operating conditions. For this iteration, 300 businesses were interviewed by phone between August 1st and 16th, 2023.

Read on for some highlights from the full report, which is available for download below.

Comparison Highlights (April 2023 to August 2023)

Job vacancies were broadly comparable in August with those seen in April, with around 41% of businesses reporting unfilled positions. Recruitment and retention issues were bigger issues in August than April, although businesses’ use of targeted recruitment practices stayed about the same.

The number of businesses currently or recently (within the previous four months) facing labour issues increased from April, and the impact of those issues was felt most strongly in finding qualified and reliable employees. Fewer businesses in August anticipated increasing their workforce in the next four months than they did in April, although there is likely a seasonal effect underlying this observation: in April, many businesses were still building their capacity in the runup to the summer peak, while businesses in August were likely expecting a slowdown into autumn and winter.

Around 40% of businesses in August reported an improvement in their general operating conditions relative to last year; for those whose operating conditions had weakened, significantly more reported reducing product offerings than had done so in April. Businesses were also considering reducing operating hours, reducing the number of shifts for hourly waged employees, and eliminating some of their part-time positions. Around 60% of businesses in August were raising their prices to help offset rising operating costs, a significantly higher share than in April. The general economic landscape of Canada in August compared to April doubtless contributed to these belt-tightening measures.

Operating Conditions of Tourism Businesses

At the sector level, over 80% of businesses interviewed indicated that they were open with no limitations or restrictions. The highest rate of restrictions was reported in the transportation industry (26%), and the lowest was in travel services (12%), although it was not clear from the survey whether these restrictions were related to government mandated health measures or due to broader economic and business pressures.

  • In accommodations (number of respondents = 114), most businesses (60%) had been open for 20 years or more, were non-franchise owner/operator enterprises (68%), and had annual revenues of less than $1 million (52%). Around 80% of businesses operated year-round, rather than seasonally.
  • In food and beverage services (n=22), around half of the businesses had been open for 20 years or more and most were non-franchise owner/operator enterprises (91%). The annual revenue reporting was affected by respondents preferring not to answer or not knowing (32%). The two most common values reported were less than $500,000 (32%) and between $1 million and $4.5 million (27%). Around 95% of businesses operated year-round. With such a small number of respondents in this group, however, we should be cautious in making generalizations about the industry as a whole.
  • In recreation and entertainment (n=105), around 80% of businesses had been open for 20 years or more. Business type and annual revenue had more variation, as we would expect from an industry group comprising such a wide array of sub-industries and businesses. Only around 60% of businesses operated annually, which likely reflects a high number of outdoor recreation businesses (e.g., skiing, hiking, biking, canoeing) in the respondent pool.
  • In transportation (n=27), around 60% of businesses had been open for 20 years or more, were non-franchise owner/operator enterprises (63%), and had annual revenues of less than $1 million. Again, this should be interpreted with care due to the small number of respondents in this group. Around 81% of businesses operated year-round.
  • In travel services (n=26), around 90% of businesses had been in operation for 20 years or more and were non-franchise owner/operator enterprises. The two most common reported annual revenues were between $1 million and $4.9 million (38%) and less than $500,000 (35%). This bimodal distribution may reflect differences between travel agencies and tour operators. Around 77% of businesses operated year-round, which also likely reflects the business year for tour operators in different parts of the country. While the number of respondents in this group is also quite low, this industry makes up a small percentage of overall tourism businesses, so while generalizability may be somewhat impacted, at least this response rate is proportional to the sector as a whole.

Most businesses interviewed in August (61%) were located in rural or remote regions or small population centres (between 1,000 and 29,999 residents). Businesses located in the Atlantic region were more likely than those in Alberta to indicate seasonal operations rather than year-round.

Recruitment and Retention

Around 40% of businesses had current job vacancies at the time of interview, with a mean of 5.4 vacant positions—this was up from a mean of 3.6 vacant positions in April, and 4.0 in January 2023.  Most businesses (59%) reported difficulties in recruiting qualified and reliable employees, with the effect being strongest in transportation, accommodations, and food and beverage services. Difficulties with retention were less pronounced, with only 38% of businesses noting this as an operational and staffing concern.

  • In accommodations, the positions most difficult to recruit and retain were housekeeping, maintenance, and kitchen staff (cooks and those otherwise involved in food preparation).
  • In food and beverage services, recruitment and retention were most challenging for kitchen staff, serving staff, and bartenders. Frontline supervisory staff were also difficult to retain, although less difficult to recruit.
  • In recreation and entertainment, recruitment and retention issues were less acute than in other industries (with less than 40% of businesses reporting difficulties), and fairly evenly distributed across the workforce, although recruitment challenges for kitchen staff in recreation and entertainment increased significantly from April (+25% increase).
  • In transportation, drivers and mechanics were the hardest positions to recruit for, and also the hardest to retain, although retention difficulties were reported at lower rates than recruitment for both occupations.
  • In travel services, travel agents were the hardest to recruit and retain, followed by tour planners (difficult to recruit but not retain), and sales and marketing staff (difficult to recruit and retain).

Around 45% of businesses reported increased recruitment efforts, such as widening job postings, using recruitment agencies, and attending more job fairs. Improved compensation packages (increased wages and benefits) were reported by 25% of businesses, while using word-of-mouth and promoting a better work-life balance were reported by 18% of respondents.

Improved compensation packages (57%) were the most commonly reported retention strategy, followed by increased flexibility offered to workers (26%) and creating a healthier culture of work-life balance (22%).


Immigration is not yet being fully utilized to meet recruitment needs at most tourism businesses—78% of businesses interviewed reported that they do not use any existing immigration programs to meet their staffing requirements.

While there was some consideration of using specific programs in the future, the most commonly reported intention (40%) was not to use immigration programs at all. International student programs were one of the more commonly used—and anticipated—programs, likely because these students are generally issued open work permits alongside their student visas, and require little administrative effort from employers. This is in stark contrast to the expense, complexity, and time needed to navigate other programs, such as the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP), that discourage many small businesses from engaging.

Employee Training

The amount of training offered in tourism businesses had only increased in 23% of survey respondents overall, and was more likely in larger businesses than smaller ones. Self-reported increases in demand for training, and in training provided, have remained largely consistent since October 2022 across all industries, although there was some differentiation between industries in the budget available for training.

Where businesses had invested in training, they reported a substantial positive impact on client/customer satisfaction—and also on employee satisfaction. The current economic climate may discourage businesses from spending money on training beyond the absolute bare minimum, but a longer view might reframe training costs as an investment in staff retention and customer loyalty, rather than a cost eroding the bottom line.

Strategic Insights

With businesses continuing to face employment challenges alongside tight economic circumstances—both in terms of increased operating costs and customers being less willing or able to spend as much on leisure—the labour situation in tourism is likely to remain a top priority for the sector. Part of the solution may be to encourage a culture shift in how businesses see labour: thinking of it as an investment rather than an expenditure is a starting point, and evidence suggests that it pays off in staff retention and customer satisfaction. Higher wages, more generous benefits packages, and increased flexibility around scheduling can also help businesses attract and retain the best candidates and rebuild their workforce in a tight labour market.

Businesses should be encouraged to engage more with immigration programs to meet at least some of their employment needs. There is a range of programs to suit different hiring needs, and also different locations: some provincial nominee programs (PNPs) or other regional initiatives may be easier to navigate than the strictly federal options. There was also general agreement among respondents that better communication about programs, clearer and more streamlined processes, and lowered costs would incentivize higher participation, so these are tools and recommendations that tourism organizations and associations can work on to better support their members.

Download the previous Business Intelligence Reports


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.

Scroll to Top