The Tourism Industry Association of Canada (TIAC) kicked off its first in-person Hill Days advocacy campaign in two years this week with a special reception in downtown Ottawa at the Wellington Building Thursday, 20OCT.
More than 60 TIAC Members gathered with 50 Parliamentarians and other government officials at an evening event that was the social highlight of the organization’s annual lobbying campaign, on through 21OCT. This year, TIAC aims to raise awareness of the key challenges now faced by Canada's beleaguered industry as it emerges from the pandemic.
“Despite some improvement over the last few months, tourism businesses continue to struggle financially, face barriers to attracting investment, and have considerable challenges attracting and retaining the necessary workforce to run their operations,” says Beth Potter, President and CEO of TIAC.
Among those challenges hampering tourism’s recovery are disruptions to supply chains, a worsening labour shortage, inflation at a 40-year high, and rising interest rates. “As the industry first hit and hardest hit (by the pandemic), these obstacles require strong public sector support to stimulate the most robust recovery of our suite of sectors,” she says.
Prior to COVID-19, tourism was one of the fastest growing sectors in the world. As one of Canada’s largest sectors, tourism was responsible for $105 billion worth of total spending, supported 1 in 10 Canadian jobs, and was made up of 225,000 small- and medium-sized businesses across Canada.
TIAC says that the removal of the last travel restrictions earlier this month positions Canada’s visitor economy to build forward. The association has set an aim to recover by the end of 2025, and to position it for strong growth thereafter.
However, according to TIAC, the latest research indicates that a number of hurdles remain for sector recovery. The total tourism labour force remains 203,000 workers short (or -9.2%) of the level it had in MAY 2019; according to Tourism HR Canada. Meanwhile, the Conference Board of Canada’s latest travel report states that total overnight overseas visits are not expected to surpass pre-pandemic levels until 2026. And the Bank of Canada is expected to further raise interest rates to tackle inflation, dampening consumer travel spending and making investment in travel and tourism development more expensive.
In its recent submission to guide the federal government in its development of a new Tourism Growth Strategy, TIAC outlined key priorities to help tourism rebuild. TIAC's plan centres on four key pillars of action:
- Attract and Retain a Sustainable Tourism Workforce,
- Improve Access for Visitors to and Within Canada,
- Develop and Promote Tourism Assets, and
- Build a Regenerative and Inclusive Tourism Industry.
These will figure prominently in the organization’s Hill Days discussions this week, as its Government Relations team and members from across the country meet with Members of Parliament, Senators and other officials to discuss the way forward.
“We have a plan, but we need help,” says Potter. “We’re urging TIAC Members and the industry-at-large to help us amplify our message to the government.”
TIAC is urging members of the industry to visit the campaign’s website tiac-aitc.ca/hilldays2022 and share the images and messages provided there on their own social media channels.