Tourism Labour Trends Dashboard

Indigenous Tourism in Alberta is a rapidly growing industry that serves domestic and international markets. Indigenous tourism increases jobs, businesses and economic growth for Alberta’s Indigenous communities. The tourism sector—and Indigenous tourism in particular—has been hardest hit by COVID-19. The data on this dashboard tracks the current status of Alberta’s tourism sector and Indigenous Tourism Alberta’s members as the sector recovers from the impact of the pandemic. 

Indigenous Tourism in Alberta

Indigenous tourism in Alberta was worth an estimated $166.2 million in GDP pre-COVID-19 while supporting over 3000 jobs and 125 Indigenous tourism businesses. COVID-19 has a dramatic impact on the sector in Alberta. In 2020, it led to a drop in direct GDP of 62% and 65% decrease in jobs. That said, the majority of businesses were able to stay open, and of those that did not, most closed but with hopes of reopening when possible. 

The first graph below tracks the employment levels at Indigenous Tourism Alberta member businesses by month. The second graph illustrates the percentage of those businesses that are in-development, visitor ready, market ready and export ready by month.

Tourism Employment in Alberta 

Tourism employment has declined precipitously since the pandemic. In February 2020, 250,000 people were employed in Alberta’s tourism sector. In the first two months of the pandemic, employment fell by 115,000. Although monthly employment has risen and is higher in 2022 and 2021 than in 2020 it remains well below pre-pandemic levels. Graph one data shows the total number of workers employed in the sector each month. Graph two shows the percentage decline in tourism employment in 2022, 2021, and 2020 compared to the same month in 2019.

Alberta’s Tourism Sector – Monthly Employment (Graph 1) and Change in Employment from 2019 (Graph 2)

The following chart displays the same data at the industry group level. The tourism sector is made up of five industry groups, accommodation, food and beverage services, recreation & entertainment and travel services. In the first months of the pandemic all industries lost a large number of employees. Out of the five tourism industry groups, travel services is the hardest hit group, with the biggest loss in tourism employment overall.
Overall, labour conditions are improving in 2022 – the change in employment between the same month in 2019 and in 2022 is getting smaller. Though employment in the accommodation and transportation groups remain suppressed, employment in the food and beverage services group is approaching pre- pandemic levels, and in the recreation and entertainment group employment has already recovered to 2019 levels as of February 2022.

Please note that this data should be used with caution as labour force survey data for specific industries can be volatile—particularly for smaller industries that employ fewer workers. 

Monthly Employment (Graph 1) and Change in Employment from 2019 (Graph 2) by industry group

The tourism sector is facing an uneven employment recovery. The loss of business travel and international travel has greatly impacted urban centers and major international attractions, which cater to those tourists. Hyperlocal and domestic travel is expected to return much faster. Businesses and regions that can allow domestic travelers to engage in safe activities with minimal restrictions will recover earlier, and in turn, need employees sooner. The following chart shows tourism employment by geographic region.  Data at this level should be used with caution as it can show high volatility in any given month. That said, the trends do indicate that tourism employment in rural regions, particularly ones close to major urban centers, has recovered to a greater degree than tourism employment in urban areas, nearby bedroom communities, and remote rural regions. 

Graph one shows the total number of workers employed in each region by month. Graph two shows the percentage decline in tourism employment compared to the same month in 2019.

Monthly Employment (Graph 1) and Change in Employment from 2019 (Graph 2) by geographic area

Another key indicator of the health of the tourism sector is the total number of hours worked by employed tourism workers. Due to Unemployment in Alberta has declined in recent months. In the fourteen months prior to the pandemic, the number of unemployed Albertans averaged 173,300 individuals per month. In the first four months of 2022, there were close to 168,800 Albertans looking for work on average.

Alberta’s Tourism Sector – Total Hours Worked by Employees

Employment in Alberta

Overall employment in Alberta is an important indicator for the health of the tourism sector. In the first months of the pandemic, 332,000 workers lost their jobs of whom 115,200 were tourism workers. Since then, overall employment in the province has returned to pre-pandemic levels though tourism employment remained down 14.0% at the start of the 2022. Tourism was the hardest hit sector and will be among the last to recover, due to closed borders and public health restrictions. Because of this, former tourism worker will seek work in other sectors, which has implications for the tourism sector’s recovery when restrictions lift and limits on travel ease.

Graph one, show total employment in Alberta. Graph two, shows the change in employment for each sector. To account for seasonal employment trends, the level of employment in each sector is show as a percent of employment in the same month in 2019.

Total Monthly Employment (Graph 1) and Change in Employment by Sector from 2019 (Graph 2)

Unemployment in Alberta also remains elevated. In the fourteen months prior to the pandemic, the number of unemployed Albertans averaged 173,300 individuals per month. Although unemployment has dropped since the early months of the pandemic, as of July there were still close to 218,000 Albertans looking for work.

Total Number of Unemployed Workers in Alberta by Month

Economic Indicators

The pandemic has caused many formerly active tourism businesses to close. This chart indicates the number of active tourism businesses since January 2019. An active tourism business is defined as one that reported having at least one employee in a given month. In February 2020, there were 8,907 active tourism businesses in the province. As of January 2022, there were 8,588 active businesses, a decrease of 3.6%. The transportation and travel services industry groups have seen the greatest decrease in active businesses.

Active Tourism Businesses in Alberta by Month

All sources of revenue for tourism businesses—including spending by non-tourists such as local residents attending shows or eating at restaurants—have been restricted by public health order. However, International travel has all but stopped, significantly affected tourism businesses that cater to this travel segment. In July 2019 almost 200,000 international tourists entered the province. As of May 2021, less than 5,000 international tourists entered the province directly. In February 2020 over 50,000 international tourists entered the province. As of February 2022, less than 20,000 international tourists entered the province directly.

International Tourists Entering Alberta from the United States and Other Countries

Sales at food service establishments remains sluggish, although it has recovered somewhat more than other segments of the tourism sector due to this industries ability to serve locals and pivot to providing take-out and patio dining when indoor dining is restricted. Despite that food service sales were down during the peak summer season in 2020, relative to the year before. As of May 2021 sales were down 19.5% from February 2020 (prior to the onset of the pandemic). As of February 2022, food service sales were still down 2.4% from February 2020.

Food Services Sales in Alberta by Month

Students in Tourism & Hospitality Programs

A long-term indicator of the supply of workers to the tourism sector is the number of students enrolling in, and graduating from tourism and hospitality related programs. From 2010 to 2018, on average 217 students graduated from college or university level hospitality administration/management programs in Alberta each year. On average, almost 400 students graduated from culinary arts programs in Alberta.