Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Now the pressure is on. I have to stay under five minutes. I'll talk fast.
Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman and honourable committee members. On behalf of the tourism industry, thank you for your invitation to participate. By the way, today is the eve of World Tourism Day, so it's very timely.
Canada's travel economy continues to provide financial and employment benefits to this country which surpass those of many sectors of the economy. Last year alone it generated almost $100 billion in revenue and 1.8 million jobs for Canadians. Tourism is one of the few sectors that has seen consistent growth and it is projected to keep growing worldwide. Considering that almost 1.3 billion visitors travelled the world in 2017 and posted 4.6% GDP growth worldwide, tourism continues to be a bright light in uncertain times where other sectors are experiencing challenges and decline.
Our pre-budget submission points to six key recommendations. As an overarching theme, Canada needs a more holistic approach to tourism policy.
Canada's tourism sector has had to react time and time again to policies and regulations that have serious implications to the health and sustainability of this sector. This happens consistently with little or no consultation with the industry. Just this summer the Department of Fisheries and Oceans implemented new regulations for marine mammals, which have serious consequences to whale-watching and ecotourism operators, but there was very little consultation.
The implementations of the electronic travel authorization, which we call the eTA, biometric requirements for visitor visas and the unexpected cancellation of the GST rebate last year are measures that have had significant impacts on tourism, especially for small and seasonal businesses.
International travel is on the rise, with last year's record-breaking 20.8 million travellers. Yet Canada remains 17th worldwide, compared with other countries. We did well, but we can do better.
Canada's travel economy includes millions of travellers who visit each year for business meetings, study and leisure. The meetings and conventions sector alone represents $30 billion in economic activity. Travel fosters trade, and there's a direct correlation between rises in international travel and subsequent increases in export volumes. According to a Deloitte study, “each 1% increase in Canadian arrivals would generate an $817 million increase in Canadian exports.” So what can we do to maximize Canada's growth?
In terms of marketing, Canada's capital investment in tourism falls well below that of Australia, the U.S., the United Kingdom and New Zealand. As the Government of Canada continues to focus on creating a competitive Canadian export market, let's remember that tourism is Canada's largest service export, but here, too, we fall below competitors such as Australia and others. What are these countries doing better?
Canada could easily improve its competitiveness by raising Destination Canada's base funding to $135 million per year, putting us on equivalent footing with Australia. A 10% annual performance-based increase in addition to stable base funding would also improve competitiveness.
Travel is experiential. We must ensure that visitors have the best experience possible when visiting Canada. Labour shortages continue to be a problem. There simply are not enough people to work during high season to keep up with demand, and this impacts visitor experience and our ability to meet traveller needs.
TIAC has long advocated for a path to immigration. We're pleased that new immigration targets could potentially fill 85,000 of the projected 145,000 jobs shortfall between 2018 and 2035. This still leaves us with a projected shortfall of 60,000 jobs at the end of the day. This issue is exacerbated by the government's categorization of tourism jobs as low skill and by the use of broad economic regions that make foreign recruitment inaccessible.
We urge the government to help us remedy this by using industry labour need as the main determinant to access all immigration streams, regardless of skill level. We should also prioritize the tourism sector in ESDC and IRCC programming by promoting tourism career options and funding programs to train under-represented labour pools, such as new Canadians, indigenous youth and people with disabilities.
Access barriers remain a significant irritant for international travellers. Canada should streamline the visa application process, open more visa application centres, invest in innovative biometric technologies, and move low-risk travellers to the eTA to improve visa openness.
Dear members, we have the opportunity to enhance the economic performance of one of Canada's most important growth sectors. TIAC has made several recommendations in its submission which address how to strengthen Canada's competitiveness on the international stage.
Thank you very much. I hope I stayed very close to five minutes.