Canada’s travel and tourism industry was absolutely devastated last year, wiping billions from the economy and pushing hundreds of thousands out of work, a new report shows.
According to the annual Economic Impact Report released by the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), the collapse in tourism took out a massive $59.2 billion from Canada’s economy last year. The industry’s impact on GDP dropped by 53 per cent.
The impact on jobs was devastating, too. The report says 373,000 employees in the sector found themselves out of work as restrictions choked international travel.
The report says small- and medium-sized businesses have borne the brunt of the job losses, hitting women, youth and minorities, who make up the bulk of the sector’s workforce, especially hard. Employment in the sector fell from 1.8 million in 2019 to 1.4 million in 2020. That’s a 20.4 per cent drop.
And while things could have been worse had it not been for the Liberal government’s wage subsidy program, WTTC says workers in the sector are still at risk. More job losses loom if travel is not restored quickly.
Further layoffs are expected to have a broader impact on the economy.
“The loss of 373,000 travel and tourism jobs in Canada has had a monumental socio-economic impact, leaving huge numbers of people fearing for their future,” Virginia Messina, senior vice president WTTC said in a release.
“We know tens of thousands of SMEs … are still fighting for their survival, putting at risk the capacity of the country to recover from the crushing impact of COVID-19.”
With vaccines rolling out more quickly, the WTTC is calling on the government to ease international travel restrictions this summer, using a “clear and science-based framework.” They suggest travellers undertake an education and testing program that includes guidance around mask-wearing and hygiene to help reduce the spread of the virus.
“Another year of terrible losses can be avoided if the government supports the swift resumption of international travel, which will be vital to powering the turnaround of the Canadian economy,” Messina said.
Canadians, meanwhile, appear to be looking forward to travelling again as soon as they are allowed to do so.
A new poll conducted by Leger Marketing on behalf of Toyota Canada finds Canadians are ready to get back on the road and are looking to outdoor adventures for their vacations this year.
More than three-quarters of Canadians polled say they appreciate the outdoors more thanks to the pandemic. And with international travel still out of reach, two-thirds of Canadians say exploring this country is more appealing than ever.
When restrictions are lifted, almost half (49 per cent) say they plan on taking a road trip. That’s a 10 per cent increase over last year.
“Canadians are more eager than ever to get back behind the wheel and explore our beautiful country as soon as it’s safe to do so,” Stephen Beatty, vice president, corporate at Toyota Canada, said in a news release.
That could be good news for the travel and tourism sector. Domestic travel, combined with the resumption of international travel, could be a potent recipe that helps the industry rebound quickly.
“If the vaccine rollout picks up pace, and restrictions for travel internationally are relaxed before the busy summer season, along with a clear roadmap for increased mobility and with comprehensive testing on departure in place, we predict the 373,000 jobs lost in Canada could return this year,” WTTC’s Messina said.