B.C.’s Tourism Industry Faces Labour Shortages

Tofino, B.C. | BCBusiness
Tofino, one of B.C.’s most popular tourism destinations.

Workers from across Canada will be needed to fill tourism job shortages throughout the province

All of B.C.‘s tourism regions could see labour shortages as early as 2014, according to studies on labour demand and supply conducted by go2hr, B.C.’s tourism and hospitality human resource association.

“Between now and 2020 there are going to be over 100,000 new job openings in tourism and hospitality, half due to growth and half due to retirement.” says Arlene Keis, CEO of go2hr.

Approximately 14,000 jobs will be impacted by the shortages. The industries hit the hardest will be food and beverage, accommodation and outdoor recreation, predicts go2hr. The transportation sector will also be vulnerable as the shortages represent a higher portion of overall labour supply in that sector. 

The biggest area of demand is going to be in the Lower Mainland, which will have about 70 per cent of the job openings because it is the largest area, but it also already has a strong supply of workers, says Keis. Northern B.C. is also in need of cooks and other hospitality workers to support the mining industry.

The study was commissioned last year to support the tourism industry’s growth plan. It focused on supply, demand and gaps in job creation in B.C.’s tourism industry and was then broken down into six regions: Cariboo Chilcotin Coast, Kootenay Rockies, Northern B.C., Thompson Okanagan, Vancouver Island and the Vancouver coast and mountains.

“We have a $13.4-billion industry right now and if we want to grow to 18 billion we have to incorporate where we are going to find the people and how we are going to keep them into our business plan,” says Keiss.

Factors for the shortage include a declining population and reliance on youth between the ages of 15 and 24 who make up 38 per cent of B.C.’s tourism industry.

“There are a lot of part-time jobs and front-line jobs [in tourism and hospitality] that people do when they are going to school, but not everybody choses that as a career,” says Keis, adding that seasonal employment also presents a challenge. “It is hard to find and keep people if you only can keep them for six months.”

According to Keis, there are a few proposed strategies to combat the labour gaps, including attracting older workers who may be interested in working part time at golf or ski resorts after retirement, working with schools to ensure there is adequate training available to young people, encouraging immigration to B.C. and looking outside of B.C. to other Canadian tourism industries that may already have too many workers.

“We are telling the rest of Canada that B.C. is open for business.”