TIAO focusing on workforce development & market growth

The Tourism Industry Association of Ontario (TIAO) and its members came together on June 3 for the Tourism Opportunities Forum in downtown Toronto.

The event showcased expert insights and provided a platform for Ontario’s tourism professionals to share ideas on the industry’s recovery.

In the welcome address, Andrew Siegwart, president and CEO of TIAO, shared that the organization’s priorities for this year are centered on both people and market with four specific areas of focus:

  • Market growth and positioning Ontario as a competitive destination
  • Workforce development
  • Infrastructure, especially multimodal transportation
  • Sectoral strategy and vision

Adam Morrison, president and CEO of the Ontario Tourism Education Corporation (OTEC), emphasized that while 2023 generated more tourism revenue than 2019, the fact remains that “operators are struggling.”

Tourism job gap lingers

There are expected to be 15,000 unfilled tourism jobs in Ontario by 2027, more than 70 per cent of which is due to attrition.

According to OTEC’s research, the most pressing issue being faced by tourism and hospitality businesses this year is high operating costs, and emerging issues include immigration policy, public perception of the industry, and declining funding.

Despite the challenges, there are strategies to improve employee retention, like leveraging HR technology, re-evaluating compensation models to include flexibility and growth opportunities, and rethinking skills development. 

Morrison’s talk was followed by a panel of employers sharing success stories and strategies surrounding workplace best practices to build the workforce. A common theme among panelists was the importance of sharing their stories post-pandemic through social media campaigns or video advertisements to highlight the benefits of working in tourism and the diversity of jobs available. 

Skills development support is key

Another successful strategy has been supporting both existing and new employees with skills development. Destination Northern Ontario created the Tourism SkillsNet North program to train prospective employees and match them with job openings in the region while providing wage subsidies to employers.

Karen Peacock, senior co-ordinator of Workplace Development and Industry Training, said the organization put together a working group of local partners to discuss a solution and that “innovation happened along the way.” Similarly, the Greater Toronto Airports Authority (GTAA) upskilled existing staff and supported new employees with a dedicated training program. The GTAA has currently retained 100% of the employees hired under the program.

The forum also had sessions on Destination Ontario’s 2024 marketing plan, presented by president & CEO Vincenza Ronaldi, and marketing innovation through technology, presented by Jessica Robinson, Content Manager at Globe Content Studio.

TIAO is committed to advocating for Ontario’s tourism industry and provides several services and programs aimed towards ensuring its future, including the recently launched Tourism Mentor Match.

To learn more, visit www.tiaontario.ca