2017 was a record year for tourism in Montréal, with 11 million visitors. The year 2018 is looking even better. Despite this, recently released data shows that Canada is lagging and could perform better in this sector.
The federal Finance Minister’s Advisory Committee on Economic Growth identified tourism as one of eight sectors with strong potential for economic growth and job creation. This industry already accounts for a substantial share of employment, with one in ten jobs in Canada. That is more than the oil, gas, mining, agricultural and aerospace sectors combined.
Canada’s Minister of Tourism, Official Languages and La Francophonie, Mélanie Joly, took the opportunity of her visit to the Chamber on December 11, 2018 to present her vision to stimulate the sector. Her speech was followed by a discussion between Raymond Bachand, Liza Frulla and Claudine Roy about leverage to increase the vitality of Canadian tourism.
“Tourism is doing well, very well in fact.” This was the note on which the Minister of Tourism, Official Languages and La Francophonie, the honourable Mélanie Joly, opened her remarks before the Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal on December 11.
On the world scene, the tourism sector is growing at a furious pace of 4% per year, even stronger than GDP growth. In Canada, this represents annual revenue of close to $98 billion, or 2% of our GDP. That is a lot of money, Joly pointed out, which helps create quality jobs for our families and particularly young people.
Despite its strong performance, Canada is still lagging on the international scene. How can we increase our competitiveness and carve out our fair market share?
Avenues for solution
The recent report Unlocking the potential of Canada’s visitor economyaddresses the question and proposes solutions that fuelled a discussion between three experts who are members of the Advisory Council on Jobs and the Visitor Economy, who also attended the event.
According to the Minister, the barriers to development of Canadian tourism are now better understood. Agreement is unanimous: tourism must be a national priority.
Raymond Bachand, strategic advisor at Norton Rose Fulbright Canada and former Minister of Finance for Quebec, notes that the biggest challenge is related to marginal, fragmented management of the industry, the responsibility for which is shared by a number of government departments.
Minister Joly promised to tackle the problem by introducing a strategy that positions tourism as a major national industry by summer 2019. The Advisory Committee will have the opportunity to share its recommendations, and the entire industry will be consulted soon.
Don’t let winter create a chill
Canada is a northern country. Yet winter is the season when the number of tourists is at its lowest. This situation is of serious concern. Mr. Bachand emphasized the fact that we need to be able to harness winter’s potential and offer the rest of the world a complete Canadian winter experience.
Claudine Roy, owner of the Auberge sous les arbres and president and CEO of Gestion immobilière Gaspé, pointed to the need to increase synergy with the tourism experience between the city and the regions. She gave the example of the initiative she created, the Grande Traversée de la Gaspésie, which offers travellers a week of outdoor winter activities. She advises tourists to first spend a few days in Montréal and enjoy the MONTRÉAL EN LUMIÈRE festival, before hitting the road for the Gaspé Peninsula. Then she encourages them to stop in Québec City on the return trip.
An extended tourism season means an increase in economic benefits and job creation year-round, rather than the seasonal jobs the industry normally generates.
Take the sector seriously
Two significant factors make workers reluctant to get involved in tourism. First, there is a lack of awareness of opportunities in the sector. Second, unfortunately tourism jobs tend to be undervalued.
Liza Frulla, general manager of the Institut de tourisme et d’hôtellerie du Québec and president of Culture Montréal, thinks the opposite is true. “Valuing these jobs is the key. Service does not mean servile! Service means know-how and soft skills,” she said.
She believes we are spoiled by the quality of training offered in the country. Because of the size of the labour pool, in part due to immigration, the Canadian tourism industry is well positioned to increase its ranking among desirable destinations around the world.
A call for a common front
While speaking at the Chamber, Minister Joly encouraged the business community to get involved, even suggesting the creation of an industry cluster to stimulate innovation and collaboration in the field. The private sector can foster the growth of tourism in the country, particularly with respect to transportation and accommodations.
“Let’s be clear: snubbing the tourism industry means leaving up to $25 billion in annual economic benefits on the table and up to 180,000 jobs. We can’t allow that to happen [...] so it’s time to roll up our sleeves and get down to work,” she concluded.