Future looks bright for B.C.’s tourism industry
For some, a dream job would be a vacation planner – for themselves. Vacationing in B.C. can take so many forms that it would indeed be a full-time job.
The tourism and hospitality industry is an extremely diverse industry with more than 400 different occupations – including occupations that lead to long-term careers, as well as those that fit well for those seeking part-time work, including students or older workers not yet ready to retire.
British Columbia’s tourism industry will be a leader in provincial job growth as businesses look to fill 101,000 new job openings by 2020, according to a study of labour demand and supply by go2, the B.C. tourism industry’s human resource association.
The Tourism Labour Market Strategy, released in the spring of 2012 by go2, sets out the plan to recruit, retain and train the workers needed to keep pace with the growth projected for the industry. Nearly half of the 101,000 openings will be new jobs created by the tourism industry across the province, adding 44,220 more jobs to the provincial workforce by 2020. The other approximately 57,000 openings are due to replacements (retirements).
“The labour strategy coordinated by go2 is a key pillar of industry growth in the province. Without it, we simply wouldn’t have the skilled workers in place to deliver the visitor experience throughout B.C.,” said Lana Denoni, chairwoman of the Tourism Industry Association of British Columbia.
B.C.’s location, bordered by the Rocky Mountains in the east and the Pacific Ocean in the west, makes it unique within Canada. Its mountain and coastal scenery, opportunities for summer sailing, winter skiing, and other activities such as fishing or sightseeing in coastal or inland waters or experiencing its cities, all make it a world-class destination.
Tourism helps to diversify B.C.’s economy and also brings new community services to permanent residents.
The tourism and hospitality industry is now the single largest “primary resource industry” in the province, generating an annual real GDP of more than $6.4 billion in 2010, ahead of forestry, mining, oil and gas extraction, and agriculture.
Tourism and hospitality generated $13.4 billion in annual revenue in 2010. Overall, between 2004 and 2010, industry revenues grew by a total of 25.5 per cent, representing an average annual growth rate of 4.2 per cent.
The provincial government’s Gaining the Edge: A Five-year Strategy for Tourism in British Columbia, targets revenue growth of five per cent a year that will top $18 billion in tourism spending by 2016.
The fastest growing sectors for tourism-job growth over the next decade are expected to be recreation, entertainment and travel services.
There are an estimated 17,943 tourism-related businesses across the province, employing about 260,000 workers, or 10.8 per cent of B.C.’s total labour force of 2.4 million people.
More than 80 per cent of tourism’s new job openings are projected to come in food and beverage services (43,410 openings), recreation and entertainment (20,530 openings) and the accommodation sector (18,920 openings).
“After several years of slow labour growth, the tourism industry is poised to expand,” said Arlene Keis, chief executive officer of go2. “Labour shortages are already being felt in places like Northern B.C., the Thompson Okanagan and in the Rockies regions. By 2016, the crunch will be more acute throughout the province.
The tourism industry often provides people with their important first job and sets them on their career path.
Tourism is also the largest employer of youth, with one in four British Columbians under the age of 24 working in the industry.
Ken Hammer, a professor of Vancouver Island University’s tourism management program, said the potential for major growth in the industry is here because B.C. and particularly the Island offers a world-class product.
“I travel a lot and what I hear is a lot of interest in our area, especially the Island,” he said. “It has been a little slow without the Americans coming here, but businesses have adjusted their tourism strategies to attract Canadians to visit.”
Hammer said tourism is a global product and has required a change in thinking.
“The support of the government is here, the education system is here and from that comes new graduates entering the workforce who have new ideas about the industry and that’s exciting,” he said. “We’re starting to get that we have to develop new tourism products within tourism products.
“The potential is great if we get everyone operating together.”