Want to Know a Secret? You May be Working in Tourism

While over 10% of the Canadian workforce is considered employed tourism-related occupations, the vast majority of these people have little idea of the key role they play with visitors to Canada. There has long been a debate in the sector as to whether the term “tourism” is clearly understood when it comes to which jobs are closely associated with, and dependent on, tourists.

With more than 400 occupations under the tourism umbrella, the diversity is impressive: from front desk agent to pilot, from tour guide to pastry chef, the opportunities for employment in the sector are broad, varied, and very much in demand. Depending on your location and the job you perform, your level of interaction with people visiting your town, province/territory, or country can vary a great deal. For example, if you are a bartender in a popular section of Saskatoon, the percentage of your customers who are tourists is likely far less than if you are performing that same job in Banff. In both scenarios, the bartenders are serving tourists, just to varying percentages of their customer base.

This disconnect between the perception and reality of who is working in tourism make it tricky to communicate important information about the sector. Often, you’ll see the word “tourism” used in conjunction with another to convey a more inclusive picture. “Tourism and hospitality” is the most common combination, and effectively ensures restaurants and hotels are part of the mix. It’s important to have all relevant parties recognize they play a role in tourism to better reflect what a key economic driver tourism is for Canada.

A tangible example that demonstrates this disconnect was a series of “on the street” interviews that Tourism HR Canada staff conducted nearly a decade ago. We conducted short interviews with people in various tourism hot spots across the country. When asked to name a profession that was tourism related, generally the responses were “tour guide” or “working at a visitor centre”. As we conversed with these folks, they started to see not only the connection to restaurants and hotels, but also to public transportation (taxis, buses), certain retail environments, and spaces like galleries and museums.

In the decade since those interviews, the importance of tourism to Canada’s economy and labour force has continued to grow. Tourism remains one of the fastest-growing sectors globally, and plans by the federal government to increase the number of tourists arriving on Canadian shores can be fostered towards success if more people can easily see they play a role in promoting the country they love and wish to share with the rest of the world.