Now is the perfect time to launch your education and career in the tourism industry!


By: Nesha Milicevic, BHM – Hospitality Instructor for the Canadian Tourism College

Tourism is an export industry. It is the second largest earner of export income for the provincial economy, after Wood Products. Foreign visitors travel to BC to purchase the product – the BC tourism experience. The money they spend exceeds the amounts brought into the province by other export industries such as oil and gas, mining, agriculture and fisheries. British Columbia hosts more than 5.6 million overnight international visitors a year, and tourism generated $12.7 billion in revenues in 2009. Tourism accounts for approximately 129,000 direct jobs in British Columbia. Approximately 8% of the total British Columbia workforce works in hospitality with one in every 15 jobs connected to tourism. According to Statistics Canada, the Survey of Employment, Payrolls and Hours (SEPH) data indicates that in 2012, there were 131,000 people working in British Columbia’s tourism sector. Almost half of the total people working in the tourism industry had jobs in accommodation and food services sector, while 33,500 were employed in the transportation and travel services industries. There were 18,700 people employed in the retail trade that were directly involved with tourist activity, and other related tourism industries such as attractions employed 13,500 people. Service and sales positions represent 82% of the hospitality workforce with 8 out of 10 working in the food and beverage sector. In 2008 almost 40% of the food & beverage workforce were part-time which is common in this industry.

As of 2011, the Mainland/Southwest region has an estimated labour force of 1.5 million. This accounts for three out of four workers who are either employed or are actively looking for jobs in British Columbia. In 2015, the region’s unemployment rate was among the lowest in the province at 7.3 per cent, second only to Northeast region’s unemployment rate of 4.9 per cent. Mainland/Southwest’s unemployment rate is lower than North Coast & Nechako (8.6 per cent), Kootenay (8.2 per cent), Thompson-Okanagan (7.9 per cent), Vancouver Island/Coast (7.7 per cent), and Cariboo (7.6 per cent). The demand for employment varies throughout the seasons. Employment is lower during shoulder seasons and picks up when the demand for guest rooms is high. Whistler builds up its peak season during the winter months when outdoor activity such as downhill skiing is in high demand. Vancouver, one of the world’s best cities to live and visit, it is a tourist haven for travelers especially during summer time when tour and travel companies inject a surplus of travelers coming into the city to spend money and help our economy. Vancouver is a central hub for cruise ships, a popular place to hold weddings or special events held at hotels and restaurants.

Part-time employment is more common in this industry than in any other industry group. Almost 40% of workers were employed part time in 2015. The only industry with a comparably large part-time workforce was retail trade, where the rate was 31%. Seasonal variations in employment are quite pronounced in this industry. Employment is lowest in the winter months, then builds up to a peak in the summer, when more people are travelling, before dipping in the fall. In addition to tourist activity, summer is also a popular time for weddings and other gatherings which are often celebrated at hotels or restaurants. Employment in the industry usually peaks during the summer months, and picks up at the end of the year.

Similarly, restaurants and hotels are often busy in December, with many Christmas and New Years’ parties held at these venues. As well, travel during the winter holidays is quite common, and this boosts the demand for accommodation and food services at that time of year.  Given the highly seasonal nature of this industry, temporary employment is quite common. About 15% of the workers are employed on a temporary rather than permanent basis. The workforce is largely female, with women holding three out of every five jobs. They make up less than half (47%) the total workforce. Tourism has implications on the economy, on the natural and built environment, on the local communities and residents at the destination and on the tourists themselves. Due to these multiple impacts, the wide range and variety of production factors required to produce those goods and services acquired by travelers, and the wide spectrum of stakeholders involved or affected by tourism, there is a need for a holistic approach to tourism development and management. This approach is required in order to implement national and local tourism policies as well as the necessary international agreements or other processes in respect of tourism. The 2012 BC Tourism Labour Market Strategy (TLMS) addresses these and other challenges. It builds on the very solid foundation laid by the British Columbia Tourism Human Resource Development Action Plan that was released in 2003 to strategically address the labour market challenges in BC’s tourism industry. An outcome of that plan was the creation of go2hr – The resource for people in Tourism. Now, almost 14 years later, the updated TLMS benefit from the accomplishments achieved since 2003, and also takes into account shifts in the socio-political, economic, and tourism and hospitality industry environments. It is the result of extensive research and consultation across the province and, when successfully implemented, will be a key contributor to achieving the five per cent annual growth target set by the Province’s Five-Year Strategy for Tourism in BC. The TLMS will be the roadmap for go2hr and its industry stakeholders and partners to implement the strategies and activities necessary to address the labour market challenges we are facing in British Columbia today and in the coming years. go2hr works closely with both the provincial and federal governments on tourism and hospitality labour issues so that the priorities and strategies identified by go2hr, the industry, and the government, are complementary. The first sector-specific strategy launched under The BC Jobs Plan was Gaining the Edge: A Five-Year Strategy for Tourism in British Columbia, 2012-2017. Its goal is to increase marketing efforts in areas most popular for people traveling to and within BC, including touring vacations, city experiences, skiing-snowboarding, Aboriginal tourism, outdoor adventure/ecotourism, and meetings and conventions. A priority of The BC Jobs Plan and Gaining the Edge is a five per cent annual growth of tourism throughout the province – an objective at the heart of the TLMS. This would result in $18 billion in tourism revenue in 2017. BC’s Labour Market Strategy to 2020 is also supporting the economic growth and a higher quality of life by increasing the skill level and labour market success of British Columbians, attracting workers and entrepreneurs who meet BC’s regional economic needs, and improving workplace productivity. The objectives are related to expanding apprenticeships, making post-secondary education more flexible and responsive to industry needs, recruiting permanent immigrants and temporary foreign workers, improving productivity through workplace training, and enhancing industry health and safety training and practices.

The voluntary turnover rate of BC’s tourism industry is more than three times higher than the private sector. To keep staff from leaving their jobs, employers need to understand the causes of voluntary turnover and factors that motivate their employees. We have to make a conscious decision to start looking at outsourcing our labour from the rising number of immigrants coming to Canada; this alone will only partially offset the departure of the baby boomers and will not be enough to sustain adequate long‐term growth within the British Columbia labour force. To stay competitive, we will have to grow our employee’s talents and create a future focus plan developing future leaders. This succession plan is aimed to reduce turn over, improve the skill set within the workforce and lessen the negative impact heading into this tight labour market.