ISSUES & CHALLENGES: Canadians have a very positive view of Ottawa. In a recent survey, Ottawa was the most positively perceived major city in Canada, with an 82% approval rating and 75% said Canadians should have a say in the future plans of Canada’s capital. Although specific figures are hard to come by, it is estimated that Parliament Hill attracts 3 million visitors annually, compared to Niagara Falls (12 million) and Vancouver (9 million), so there is room for improvement. In addition to environmental factors such as the strong Canadian dollar and volatile oil prices, technology is fundamentally changing the way people engage, plan, market and conduct travel, and this impacts the jobs that will be available in coming years. A Conference Board of Canada study published in 2009-2010 said that Ottawa’s tourism employers find it difficult to recruit and retain qualified, reliable employees (high turnover); employee wage expectations are high (although the sector is dominated by low-skilled jobs); there is shortage of skilled labour in local area; and, young people are uninterested/ unaware of tourism jobs.
POTENTIAL SOLUTIONS: Ottawa has existing partnerships looking at tourism as an integral part of Ottawa’s brand image and a plan in place. This should be strengthened. A concerted effort should be made to leverage social media and other technologies to boost tourism. Currently, the Ottawa Tourism website, for example, allows people to join them on Facebook (5,062 likes), Flickr (323 photographs) and Twitter (3,836 followers). In contrast, Tourism Vancouver has the following statistics: 23,703 likes on Facebook; 6,559 Flickr photos (a “group pool” not restricted to just the tourism industry) and 21,154 followers on Twitter . A strategy is needed to create “buzz” around visiting Ottawa, engaging citizen journalists and building on the positive goodwill towards the city – that may attract younger workers.
Due to recent recessionary pressures, the labour shortage that was anticipated in the tourism sector has eased. However, Ottawa is expected to need 1,316 additional workers by 2015, particularly in Food and beverage services (e.g., cooks and servers). However, workers in this sub-sector are amongst the lowest paid as turnover is high, and is dominated by part-time shift work favoured by youth and female workers. Promoting career opportunities, engagement/ retention strategies and youth entrepreneurship could be explored. There is a strong food culture in Ottawa – AAA Diamond restaurants, Le Cordon Bleu, ethnic food galore – yet it’s not “known” as a food city. There may be an opportunity to strategize around Ottawa as a gastronomic city (culinary tourism) which, in turn, may help attract youth into the sector. Other tourism strategies to link into could include adventure tourism or wellness tourism.
The Sector Summary: Tourism was developed in October 2011 to provide in-depth analysis of labour market issues.
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