New HR Trends and Concerns Revealed by Workplace Matters Panel

Tourism business owners and human resource personnel from across the country weighed in on the impact of the economic downturn on the sector and the results are in. Their feedback provides useful benchmarks and insight into the effect of the downturn on revenue, recruitment, retention, and training.

As can be expected, many businesses found 2009 a difficult year. While 31% of those surveyed reported business conditions had remained roughly the same in their region, 33% felt they had weakened somewhat, and a further 27% said they had weakened greatly. Only 6% of businesses reported an improvement. The economic downturn was most acute for the accommodations industry, with 67% of properties reporting some degree of decline in business.

The poor business conditions translated to reduced revenue for many establishments. The majority (65%) saw a decrease, with over a quarter reporting they lost 10% or more of their revenue compared to 2008. Yet not all declined: 27% of respondents reported increased revenue and 9% felt revenue remained stable from 2008.

Decreased revenues have not, however, caused a corresponding decrease in staffing. While 31% of panellists reported somewhat decreased staffing for part-time positions, only 18% reduced full-time positions, while 27% reduced seasonal positions. Most operators maintained their staffing levels and did not foresee significant changes in early 2010: 79% felt hiring would remain static, while only 15% expected it to decrease.

Staffing Levels in 2009 compared to 2008

Increased greatly Increased somewhat Stayed about the same Decreased somewhat Decreased greatly
Full time jobs 2% 13% 67% 16% 2%
Part time jobs 2% 13% 53% 31% 0%
Seasonal jobs 2% 9% 62% 18% 9%

When panel members rated labour-related issues, recruitment remained a significant concern. At the top: recruitment difficulties caused by the seasonal nature of the business, with 38% rating it of high significance. Following closely was competition for staff from businesses in the same industry/sector (36%). Also noted were the high wage expectations of potential candidates and a lack of interest in – or awareness of – tourism jobs among young people.

In the next three to five years, respondents felt increasing operational costs were of greatest concern (83%), followed by economic challenges (67%), and labour issues such as recruitment, retention, high pay, and employment equity (62%).

Training is another issue: 32% of panellists indicated their businesses had reduced their investment in training compared to a year ago. Over two-thirds felt training was a key challenge when compared to hiring and layoffs. As one panellist elaborated, it is not necessarily the financial investment, but rather finding time to train employees properly. On the positive side, half of respondents maintained their training investment, while 15% had increased it. Another panellist noted that the reduction in turnover had allowed the opportunity to train staff beyond the basics.

The Workplace Matters panel is still growing. You could be one of 2,000 members of Canada’s tourism sector to share opinions and expertise – and participate for prizes as well. Your input will allow the CTHRC to identify and respond to the issues that are and/or will be affecting the tourism workforce. All responses are anonymous; CTHRC receives only aggregated data. Click here to complete the participant profile survey today!