Thank you, Madam Chair.
Thank you for inviting me here today.
My name is Adrienne Foster and I'm the vice-president of policy and public affairs with the Hotel Association of Canada.
Hotels are critical to the Canadian economy. More than just keystones of the tourism sector, hotel event spaces are the heart of many communities.
Many people assume hotels are owned by the major international brands we are all familiar with. In fact, these hotels are mostly owned and operated by Canadian small and medium-sized businesses, many of which are family run.
Hotels employ people in all regions of the country during all seasons. We hire a greater proportion of women, new Canadians and indigenous people than other industries. People are the lifeblood of this industry.
As you can imagine, COVID–19 has had a devastating impact on Canada's travel and hospitality sector. When COVID hit, the tourism sector lost one million employees. We welcomed back many this summer, but frequent lockdowns and instability forced some to leave permanently for other sectors. As of today, the tourism sector is still short about 200,000 employees. That's more than other industries, like retail at 110,000, or construction and manufacturing at 90,000 each.
I'd like to be clear. Our members want to hire Canadians. Hotels have adapted to the changing work environment by offering more flexible hours, higher wages, signing bonuses and workplace programs, but the reality is that with record-low births and unemployment rates, and with boomers retiring en masse, there are simply not enough people in Canada to fill these vacancies. An August survey of our members found that 69% were forced to limit room availability to maintain service standards and 75% had to deploy staff to jobs they were not hired for. The situation on the ground for hotels is not sustainable.
As demand for travel continues to surge, immigration will be key to our industry's recovery. The hotel sector is an excellent employer for new Canadians. We have opportunities for those with limited language skills. We offer training, support and positions at all levels. Our core message is that Canada's immigration system must be reformed to reflect actual labour challenges.
We will provide the clerk with a detailed submission, so today I'll focus just on two key recommendations.
First, we need to open Canada's permanent immigration stream to those who can fill in-demand occupations in our industry. We recommend the government include tourism workers in their express entry criteria for permanent residency, just as it is planning to do for agricultural workers. The criteria could be based on measures like previous work experience in Canada—either as a TFW or international student—or an offer of employment for a tourism job.
The government can also raise immigration levels and target key regions and sectors by working with provinces to expand the in-demand occupation streams in their provincial nominee programs.
Second, while we don't want to rely on temporary solutions, we know that changes to the immigration system will take time. In the meantime, we are recommending reforms to the temporary foreign worker program. We thank the government for improvements, such as extending LMIAs and increasing caps for TFWs, but red tape and slow response times continue to discourage many from even applying.
Perhaps more concerning is the low rate of success for our applications. From our members survey, 44% of those who applied for TFWs haven't had a single application approved since January. We recommend that tourism jobs are prioritized within the TFW program. This can be done by expediting tourism sector NOCs, removing the LMIA requirement and application fee, and waiving the 30-day job posting requirement.
Madam Chair, travel has resumed with a vengeance and this is the perfect opportunity for our sector to get back on its feet and thrive. We just need the people to help us get there.
Thank you very much.