Tourism in Canada is a multi-billion-dollar sector employing over 1.9 million people in five industry groups in communities across the country. As the pandemic struck the world, employment in Canadian tourism plummeted by nearly 1 million jobs. Ongoing volatility in the tourism job market has, undoubtedly, made some Canadians wary of starting (or continuing) a career in tourism and has likely impacted the attractiveness of tourism as a place of employment and career path.

Research is required to understand where Canadians “are at” now in terms of their attitudes and beliefs about working in tourism and then to track those changes over time as the industry pivots and rebuilds itself in Canada and around the world.

Tourism HR Canada has worked with market research and analytics firm Leger to undertake this research. They conducted a web survey looking at the perceptions of tourism as a place of employment. In total, 2,504 Canadian residents participated in the survey in September 2022.

A full report analyzing the results of this survey is now available as a free download, and highlights are provided below.

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Previous and Current Tourism Experience

Half of those surveyed have at some point worked in tourism, while 7% currently work in the sector. The largest proportion have experience in the food and beverage services industry. Of those who previously worked in tourism, the majority worked in the industry more than five years ago.

Among those who have worked in the sector, those who worked in the recreation and entertainment industry reported the highest level of job satisfaction (68%). A career in recreation and entertainment was also the tourism career most recommended by Canadians (44% would recommend).

Those who worked in tourism primarily did so for temporary employment, whether during school (37%) or while searching for new employment opportunities (22%). Just under a quarter (23%) decided to work in tourism because it suited their skills and interests and/or personality.

Of those who have since left tourism, a third no longer work in the sector as it was temporary employment while in school (32%) and/or they had different career opportunities (32%). Those who had never worked in tourism indicated they had other career opportunities (43%) and/or were never interested in a career in tourism (39%). Over a third (36%) indicated that their willingness to work in the tourism sector could be increased by high pay/compensation, however 38% indicated that none of the benefits outlined (increased pay, benefits, compensation, etc.) would change their willingness to work in tourism.

Perceptions of Skills and Experience Acquired Through Working in Tourism

A third of those who previously worked/currently work in the tourism sector indicated that they received no training (33%), while 34% indicated job shadowing as their form of training. While working in the sector, less than a quarter (23%) were offered a promotion to a managerial or supervisory role, while a third (32%) had the desire to move to a managerial or supervisory role.

Three-in-five (61%) of those who previously worked/currently work in tourism found the skills they developed allowed them to be successful in their careers. Communication and interpersonal skills were seen as valuable skills gained by working in tourism. Furthermore, 60% agreed that working in the tourism sector provided them with invaluable experience that they will take with them. Communication and the ability to speak multiple languages are considered the most important soft and hard skills to be successful in a job in tourism.

Perceptions of the Tourism Sector

Generally, Canadians view tourism as being important to the economic well-being of Canada (89%) and their province (87%). And visitors, regardless of where they are from, were perceived as good for Canada, their province, and their region.

In regards to a career in tourism, over a third (38%) of Canadians stated that working in tourism is only a short-term employment solution; over a third also view working in tourism as an excellent career opportunity (37%).

Over two-thirds (68%) of Canadians believe the tourism sector faces a growing labour shortage.

Respondents who previously worked/currently work in tourism expressed concerns about the financial benefit of working in the sector: 70% think the pay is low for most tourism jobs and 64% think the pay is not enough to lead a satisfactory life. Over half (55%) feel the level of fringe benefits in tourism is insufficient. Similar thoughts are shared by Canadians as a whole, with 59% expressing that pay is low for most tourism jobs and 54% stating that the pay for most tourism jobs is not enough to lead a satisfactory life.

Of those who previously worked/currently work in tourism, 25% think the promotion opportunities are satisfactory; in comparison, 21% of Canadians as a whole believe this.

Strategic Insights

Tourism is a major part of the Canadian economy, and many Canadians have previous experience working in the sector. However, few remain in it for the long term. A large proportion of Canadians and those with tourism experience view it as a short-term or temporary employment solution. This belief is further perpetuated by the assumption of low wages, the inability of the pay to lead a suitable life, and the perceived lack of promotion opportunities. To retain talent within the sector, substantial efforts need to be made to address these concerns.

Those who have tourism experience are more likely than Canadians as whole to state that pay is low for tourism jobs. There is an assumption that those who have experience have been negatively impacted by it. Addressing the challenges and concerns of individuals within tourism will improve perceptions and attitudes overall, as individuals can serve as spokespeople for the sector. To ensure tourism is portrayed in a more attractive light, it is vital that compensation and career advancement opportunities satisfy those currently in the sector.

A portion of the Canadian population indicate they would be more willing to work in tourism if there were increased pay or compensation. This implies that the greatest barrier for those entering the sector is the potential lack of compensation.

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