Tourism – Who’s Visiting in Canada?
Tourists include both international visitors… 
- In 2000, there were 674 million international tourism arrivals.
- In 2014, there were 1.1 billion.
- In 2019, international tourism arrivals reached 1.46 billion.
… as well as Canadians exploring their own back yard.
Domestic tourism accounts for around 80% of revenue derived from tourists.
We don’t have statistics on local people enjoying the attractions of their own communities, but that is certainly an important factor for many tourism-related businesses.
Tourism at a Glance
Canada’s tourism sector is composed five distinct, but related, industry groups:
Food and beverage services
Recreation and entertainment
Businesses in these industries—such as restaurants and recreation facilities—serve both tourists and local residents, and can be found in almost every corner of the country. This makes tourism an important part of the Canadian economy, accounting for around 10% of all full-year jobs .
Working in Canadian Tourism
The 2019 Tourism Human Resource Module counted 1.9 million full-year jobs in the tourism sector, with 748,000 jobs in Canada directly attributable to spending by tourists.
- Tourism provides a lot of seasonal and part-time work, particularly for young people: the 2016 census showed that people aged 15–24 made up 31% of the tourism workforce, compared to only 13% of the overall labour force and population.
- Tourism is also an important source of employment for newcomers to Canada: the 2016 census showed that 28% of tourism employees were immigrants or non-permanent residents.
Of the five main industry groups, food and beverage services is the biggest employer in 2022, with an average of 838,000 people working in the industry in any given month.
- The next biggest employer groups are recreation and entertainment (508,600 employees) and transportation (267,300 employees).
The tourism sector has been heavily affected by COVID-19, losing several hundred thousand jobs over a very short period, as travel was restricted and the economic effects of the pandemic impacted everyone’s finances.
- In the past year or so, however, things have been improving, as people are able to travel more freely, and they want to get back to exploring the world.
For the latest tourism labour force and employment estimates from Statistics Canada, check out Tourism HR Canada’s Tourism Employment Tracker.
COVID-19 Tourism Recovery
The number of tourists fell sharply in 2020 when the global pandemic imposed travel restrictions around the world (both domestically and internationally), but there are some promising signs of recovery. When we look at international tourism arrivals in the summer months from the past few years, we see that things are not back to where they were before the pandemic, but they are moving in the right direction.
- In the summer of 2019, there were on average 4.4 million international tourists visiting Canada each month.
- In the summer of 2020, that dropped to an average of 141,000 per month.
- In the summer of 2021, that had climbed back to 340,000 per month.
- In the summer of 2022, that was up to 2.5 million per month.
Tourism Labour Shortages
The pandemic disrupted just about every employment sector across the country, but tourism was hit particularly hard as it depends so heavily on travel and in-person experiences. As the economic landscape in Canada shifted in response to the unprecedented global health crisis, there were several shifts in how, and where, people worked:
- Many tourism businesses had to reduce their number of employees or reduce the number of hours worked per employee.
- Many older workers have retired early.
- Many younger workers have returned to school.
- Many employees have shifted from full-time to part-time work.
- Many tourism workers have transferred into other sectors of the economy.
These COVID-related changes have also coincided with some demographic shifts in the population of Canada[7, 8]:
- Canada’s population continues to grow, but the birth rate is slowly decreasing at the same time that life expectancy is increasing—so the population overall is getting older.
- As older people leave the workforce (either retiring altogether or stepping back to part-time commitments), there is a growing gap between job vacancies and job seekers.
- Population growth in Canada is reliant on immigration, which can be affected by a number of external factors and can vary from year to year.
Jobs in tourism offer a lot of flexibility and scope for movement and change, but these factors can also make it harder to retain workers. Many jobs are seen as part-time or seasonal work only, while the reality is that qualified workers are needed year-round in many industries in the sector.
- Tourism businesses are actively exploring new ways to attract and retain workers, but they are competing with all other sectors to recruit employees in an increasingly tight labour market.
 Source: UNWTO. UNWTO Tourism Highlights 2015 edition, Tourism towards 2030.
 This number fluctuates seasonally, and dropped during the peak period of the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions. Tourism jobs accounted for 10.8% of all jobs in September 2019 and had recovered to 9.8% by September 2022. Source: Statistics Canada Labour Force Survey, customized tabulations: seasonally unadjusted data collected for the period of September 13-19, 2019; and September 11 to 17, 2022.
 Data for the 2021 census is being released gradually, and statistics relating to tourism employment are not yet available.
 Source: Statistics Canada Labour Force Survey, customized tabulations: seasonally unadjusted data, collected monthly throughout 2022.
 Source: Statistics Canada. Table 24-10-0053-01 International travellers entering or returning to Canada, by type of transportation and traveller type.
 Source: Angus Reid Institute. Out of Service: Hospitality sector sheds employees of all ages during COVID-19 while migration to tech surged. 2022.
 Source: Statistics Canada. Table 17-10-0005-01 Canada’s population estimates: Age and Sex, July 1, 2022.
 Source: Statistics Canada. Table 13-10-0418-01 Crude birth rate, age-specific fertility rates and total fertility rates (live births).