MDB Insight Blog


Post-COVID Future of The Tourism Workforce

Tourism HR Canada recently partnered with MDB Insight to take an in-depth look at the systemic issues facing the tourism sector’s labour force and the effect of COVID-19. We examined several key factors and crafted strategic recommendations to rebuild the tourism sector more sustainable and resilient as we head down the road to recovery.

While the main focus is labour-related considerations, broader economic, political and social factors were also considered. Through this collaboration and extensive market research and analysis, MDB Insight prepared the first comprehensive report on The Post-COVID Future of the Tourism Workforce.

Economic activity in tourism has decreased much more than economic activity in other sectors. Using January 2020 as the baseline, the gross domestic product (GDP) across all sectors had not fully recovered to pre-pandemic levels by February 2021. GDP stood at 98.1% of January 2020 levels. However, across all tourism-related sectors, GDP was only 58.1% of pre-pandemic levels.


Economic activity is likely to continue to be regionally focused until international travel demand increases and restrictions lighten. However, some fundamental drivers of domestic tourism are still missing. In some provinces, indoor attractions still face some limitations and threats of possible pandemic resurgence.

Across Canada, significant events, festivals, and conferences have been impacted by cancellations and strict reopening requirements. Host locations and destinations will experience a domino effect to be felt by hotels and some restaurants. Economic development in regions will need to focus on regeneration and revitalization programs that are strategic and sustainable.

Our market research finds that Canadians are actively getting outside and travelling domestically. With limited international or inter-provincial travel options, they are shifting to destinations closer to home, and staycations, focusing on outdoor activities. Traveller motivations will likely evolve with seasonal shifts and offerings.

Some regions are already experiencing significant spikes in customer demand—with an accompanying need for workers. At the same time, customer demand will continue to stay below pre-pandemic levels in urban centres.

Across Canada, there are still some uncertainties about the pace of vaccination and the timelines for easing restrictions. Current reopening plans being implemented allow businesses to strategize for ongoing and sustained recovery.

As tourism demand returns, reattracting a displaced workforce is a vital priority for the sector. Stakeholders are concerned that displaced workers will not return to the industry even when the pandemic is over. Another concern raised by businesses owners is that the loss of core, long-term staff means they will need to operate with less-experienced workers during the early phase of recovery.

Perceptions of the industry overall as a stable and desired workplace have deteriorated during the pandemic are also an issue. COVID-19 has negatively impacted the desire to work in the tourism sector, due primarily to concerns about safety while working and job security. Workers also question low wages and compensation, the lack of reliable hours, and career development opportunities.

In the future, more focus will be needed on reforming immigration pathways and policies that align with the tourism sector. Between 2017 and 2018, net immigration accounted for 80% of Canada’s population increase. By the early 2030s, Canada’s population growth will rely exclusively on immigration. Canada’s current and future prosperity depends on recruiting immigrants, especially in the tourism sector.

The tourism sector’s recovery is starting, but it still faces a longer recovery time and the likelihood that the traditional labour force will permanently move to other opportunities and industries. There is a pressing need to focus on the sector’s workforce shortage to ensure that future tourism demand is met along the road to recovery.

Reference: Tourism HR Canada

Key Considerations for Recovery:
Are you prepared to evolve your tourist destination from surviving to thriving? Find out how we can help you at every stage of the tourism development journey, from emerging attractions to established destinations.

Are you concerned about the implications of your future workforce? Find out how we can guide you on optimizing your workforce development strategies for the sustainability of your sector and community.

Are your strategic decisions based on comprehensive market research and analysis? Our in-house team of market research experts has experience in all areas of regional tourism and economic development.

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Let us help you assess and improve the state of your tourism and workforce development strategies in these unprecedented times. Contact us, and let’s talk tourism.

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