When an entire sector is shut down for two years and loses its most precious asset — its people — it becomes challenging to re-open and operate effectively.

Since the pandemic, the Hotel Association of Canada (HAC) has been focused on lobbying government for better access to international workers and mobilizing the industry to secure the survival of the sector.

“We lost over a million tourism workers in the first two months of the pandemic,” reflects Susie Grynol, president & CEO of HAC, “We were the hardest-hit sector and the last to re-open and are still short 360,000 workers to meet summer demand.”

Changing Needs
Since re-opening, demand for travel has experienced a renaissance. During this time, the needs of employees have changed and hotels across the country have evolved to meet them through the adoption of increased pay, enhanced benefits and new, flexible ways of working. Other factors contributing to the labour shortage include the rise of remote work, a perception of instability in service-based roles and a historic domestic unemployment rate of five per cent.

According to a recent StatsCan study, Canada’s labour shortage is primarily the result of a mismatch of skills and education to available opportunities. While Canada has a great deal of post-secondary educated workers, including newcomers, there is a shortage of workers able to fill jobs requiring less education. Of the almost 500,000 vacant jobs in Canada today that require a highschool education or less, there are only 300,000 unemployed Canadians that fit the description.

Addressing the labour shortage with domestic efforts alone will not be enough to fully recover and grow.

A New Approach
Earlier this year, HAC launched its new Workforce Growth Strategy, an approach that provides ideas for collective change through a domestic and international lens, including attracting domestic workers; increasing access to international workers; developing skills and supporting employers; and sharing key research and useful resources.

To better understand the issue, through government funding and a partnership with Deloitte, HAC executed new industry research to improve understanding of workforce needs through national focus groups; led a Hotel Labour Summit to workshop solutions with industry leaders, students and employees; and launched a Canadian hotel-recruitment campaign. These efforts culminated in HAC’s development of the industry’s first Hotel Workforce Action Plan to support hoteliers by sharing best practices and steps that can be taken to make collective change for the industry.

Through the lens of the Talent Lifecycle, hoteliers will be able to leverage ideas on how they can attract, recruit, develop, retain and separate to meet the needs of today’s employees, while growing their culture and bottom line.

The report aims to not only help facilitate stronger industry alignment, but also to assist organizations in building tailored action plans, to address concerns and support the development of a healthy labour pool.

Overall, the sector has also seen positive steps towards recovery, including recent wins with the historic $158-million tourism investment from the government’s Budget 2023 towards marketing business events and regional tourism products. These investments are part of a larger federal Tourism Growth Strategy to be released this summer.

HAC’s efforts will continue to focus on positioning tourism as a top priority for government, helping the industry maximize programs for workforce growth and creating access to new streams of workers by addressing immigration policy pain points.

Tourism is Canada’s largest service export. We proved through COVID that we’re resilient and given the opportunity, we can lead a remarkable recovery.



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