With several provinces beginning to lift border restrictions, allowing Canadians to once again travel freely, will Canada’s tourism industry be strong enough to rebound? A University of Guelph researcher says there is reason to be hopeful, but the industry faces several challenges.
Dr. Marion Joppe, a professor in U of G’s School of Hospitality, Food and Tourism Management, expects many Canadians who have had at least their first vaccination will begin travelling again in droves this summer. This may exacerbate current challenges, as many tourism-related businesses, including restaurants, face significant labour shortages, she said.
Joppe researches many aspects of the travel industry, including the various motivations for travel and the economic, social and environmental impacts of the tourism industry. She notes that one in 10 Canadian jobs are tied to tourism and the industry lost record numbers of workers in the last year. Many of those workers are not planning to return.
“Last month, tourism-related employment was just under 600,000 in Ontario, well below the 813,000 that were employed in May 2019,” she said.
Before the pandemic, the Canadian tourism industry generated more than $100 billion in annual economic activity. It is now facing a shortfall in the billions of dollars.
But Joppe noted Destination Canada, the Crown corporation that markets Canada as a tourist destination nationally and internationally, is putting on a big push to encourage Canadians to travel domestically to help the industry recover.
“Destination Canada is appealing to Canadians’ patriotism, which is great but also a real challenge for businesses that have not been allowed to prepare themselves for the upcoming summer season,” she said.
“Hiring and training staff take time, and they have been burned before by being told to close at a moment’s notice when COVID-19 case numbers started to spike. Although everyone is hopeful, there is no guarantee it won’t happen again, even with a higher percentage of Canadians vaccinated.”
One way to cope with labour shortages could be through automation and robotics. But investing in contact-less ordering and payment is difficult for smaller businesses, compounded by the global computer chip shortage.
Dr. Joppe is available for interviews.
Dr. Marion Joppe