Tourism at a Glance

  • In 2000, there were 674 million tourism arrivals. By 2014, there were 1.1 billion, and in 2019, international tourism arrivals reached 1.46 billion.1
  • Domestic tourism (tourists exploring their own country) is also significant. In Canada, it accounts for about 80% of revenue derived from tourists.
  • Canada’s tourism sector is composed of five distinct but related industry groups: accommodation, food and beverage services, recreation and entertainment, transportation and travel services.
  • Businesses in these industries, such as restaurants and recreation facilities, serve both tourists and many local residents as well.
  • Worldwide, there were 1 billion fewer international arrivals in 2020 than in the previous year, due to COVID-19.2

Tourism Labour Highlights

  • The 2019 Tourism Human Resouce Module counted 1.9 million full-year jobs in the tourism sector—that’s 10% of all full-year jobs in Canada. There were 748,000 jobs in Canada directly attributable to spending by tourists.3
  • The food and beverage services industry is the largest employer among tourism businesses, accounting for over 55% of tourism jobs.
  • Tourism provides significant employment for young people. The 2016 census showed that 560,000 youth (age 15—24) worked in tourism. They make up 31% of Canada’s tourism workforce, compared to only 13% of the overall labour force and population.
  • The tourism sector is a significant source of employment for newcomers to Canada. The 2016 census showed that 28% of tourism employees were immigrants or non-permanent residents.

Labour Shortage Impact

  • When spending by tourists and non-tourists is calculated, spending in Canada’s tourism sector was nearly $220 billion in 2015. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, it was projected to grow to over $338 billion in 2035 (using inflation-adjusted 2012 dollars).
  • Such growth would have required 504,000 jobs to be created between 2015 and 2035. It was expected that the labour force would not be able to supply the full compliment of workers required, leaving 93,000 of these jobs unfilled.
  • In 2015, the Job Vacancy and Wage Survey showed there were 22,320 vacant full-year jobs in Canada’s tourism sector in that year alone.

The Impact of COVID-19

  • Tourism HR Canada is tracking the ongoing impact of the pandemic on the sector. For more information, check out our employment tracker page.
  • In February 2020, over 2 million people were employed by Canada’s tourism sector. In the first two months of the pandemic, employment in tourism dropped by 43.1%.
  • Over the summer of 2020, tourism employment recovered somewhat, but the tourism sector employed approximately half a million fewer workers than in 2019, depending on the month.
  • In the fall of 2020, the Conference Board of Canada updated the jobs demand outlook, estimating that after falling to 1.36 million full-year jobs in 2020, the number of tourism jobs needed to meet demand would rebound to 1.65 million in 2021. The number of full-year jobs would return to pre-COVID levels in 2023.
  • As of January 2021, there were 9.8% fewer active tourism businesses operating than there were one year earlier. The reduction in active businesses in the tourism sector ranged from -2.2% in the accommodations industry to -27.9% in the travel services industry.


1 – UNWTO. UNWTO Tourism Highlights 2015 edition, Tourism towards 2030.
2 – UNWTO. World Tourism Barometer.
3 – Statistics Canada. Table 36-10-0232-01 Employment generated by tourism (x 1,000).

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