The Canadian government must implement a number of changes in job training and immigration policy if a severe labor shortage in the tourism industry is to be averted over the next 15 years. That call was made by the Tourism Industry Association of Canada (TIAC) in a report issued on the eve of its annual conference here this week.
The report paints a bleak picture of the industry’s future if there’s no significant improvement in the number of workers entering the broad range of industries – from accommodation and food service to transportation and recreation – that comprise the tourism sector.
Drawing upon research by the non-profit Canadian Tourism Human Resource Council (CTHRC), the TIAC report claims tourism labor shortages could top 225,000 by 2030. That would result in an estimated C$31.4 billion in foregone revenues and more than C$4 billion in taxes, the report adds.
TIAC’s interim President, Rob Taylor, noted that tourism is “fuelled by the pursuit of unique and memorable experiences,” which requires “a quality of service that can only be delivered by an adequately staffed and properly trained work force.”
The inability to keep up with new demand – let alone create new demand – would lead dissatisfied foreign visitors to travel elsewhere in future.
The labor shortages are the result of a variety of factors, the report says, including lower birth rates and an aging population; negative perceptions about the industry’s salary levels and advancement opportunities; and a mismatch between worker skills and job vacancies.
“Fortunately there a number of concrete actions that the government can take to correct the labor shortage,” the report says.
Several recommendations revolve around support for training and certification.
The report claims employee retention is influenced by perceived prospects for advancement to a greater extent than competitive wages. Accordingly, the government should support training and professional certification programs that help counter misconceptions about lack of career advancement. It calls for tax credits for on-the-job training, which it says will help small and medium-sized enterprises in particular, and more money for government bodies, such as the CTHRC, that have offered professional programs of their own.
The report notes Canadians in high unemployment regions are hesitant to move to other parts of the country in which job openings are unfilled, and recommends schemes – from tax credits for relocation to linking youth welfare to training – that would entice unemployed people to move.