Over the past year, Canadians have been leaving the tedium of Netflix marathons and online workspaces behind to explore the great outdoors. In turn, outdoor tourism is becoming increasingly popular, allowing many tourism-based business to grow. Great, yes, but with this growth, there’s been an increased, unmet demand for workers in this sector.
Employment gaps have formed across many key jobs.
Employment trends in the tourism sector: Where are the Gaps?
As Laurie Marcil, Executive Director, Nature and Outdoor Tourism Ontario, notes, “There are now and have been for the last several years employment gaps in the tourism industry. These gaps have been increased since the onset of the pandemic. Traditional positions like housekeepers, cooks, food and beverage servers, dockhands maintenance and general management are all essential to supporting a vibrant tourism sector. There is also the matter of ensuring people feel it is safe to head back to work or look for work. Within the tourism sector, we have a strong support system and very comprehensive health and safety protocols to ensure our staff and guests are safe. We could use support from the Province to help convey messages of safety by recognizing the protocols that our sectors have worked so hard to put in place.”
Indeed, Destination Northern Ontario is also fostering employment opportunities in tourism through their Tourism Skillsnet North program.
Tourism Skillsnet North is a program that serves to create and rebuild the tourism workforce in the north by working with employment service providers and regional support networks to draw out people who may be interested in jobs in the tourism industry. Through this program, participants are provided free training opportunities and placements with employers in the tourism sector in Northern Ontario. As Marcil remarks, “groups of participants have been completing their free trainer-led online training and over 27 placements are underway. This will continue as we receive more participants.
Most of the training is self-guided. Specialized training is available depending on the type of positions that participants are interested in. For each course completed, participants will receive a certificate that they can use to build their portfolio. They will also gain a range of transferable skills that will provide them with an excellent start within tourism. There is no cost to participants for the training which has a value of over $1,000. Employers that take on a placement, will receive a subsidy of up to 30% of wages per participant. The goals of this program are to build a strong tourism workforce and fill some of the labour gaps that have been a challenge for our sector over the last number of years.”
A look to the future: Sustainability of the Tourism Industry
The outdoor tourism industry in Northern Ontario is well poised to grow and help in economic recovery for the province.
Northern Ontario has plenty of outdoor tourism oppourtunities for families and friends that provide the ability to meet and social distance. An increase in visitation to the North will help not only tourism businesses, but our gas stations, retail stores, and restaurants return to a more prosperous time by creating more jobs and helping our northern economy. But Marcil notes, “the reality is we need people. We need them to fill countless new and vacant positions which may mean that we need to build a new workforce. We will need commitments from sector representatives to talk about tourism as a career in our elementary and high schools as well as continuing to work closely with our Colleges and Universities to ensure tourism is seen as an exciting career opportunity.”
If the past is any indicator of the present, the pandemic will only continue to place pressure for more outdoor tourism experiences and subsequent jobs in the tourism sector.
Tourism Skillsnet North is a program that involves the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development and Ministry of Heritage, Sport, Tourism, and Culture Industries, Ontario Tourism Education Corporation, Destination Northern Ontario, Nature and Outdoor Tourism Ontario, District Social Services Administration Boards and Northern Ontario Workforce Planning Boards. For more information on Tourism Skillsnet North, check out destinationnorthernontario.ca/tsnn.
About Destination Northern Ontario (DNO)
Destination Northern Ontario is one of 13 not-for-profit regional tourism organizations funded by the Ontario Ministry of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries. We are the largest tourism region in geography, the second largest in expenditure and the only region that includes sub-regions.
Northern Ontario will be a unique and distinctive tourism destination wherein high-quality products and experiences resonate with consumers, entrepreneurship is valued, and tourism provides local, regional and global connections for the entire region. Destination Northern Ontario will take a leadership role to strategically guide and champion growth in Northern Ontario’s tourism industry, through strong communication, collaboration and partnerships with industry.