Alberta Minister of Immigration and Multiculturalism Muhammad Yaseen during the announcement of the new Tourism and Hospitality Stream in Jasper on Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024. | Scott Hayes / Jasper FitzhughScott Hayes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The Alberta government announced its new Tourism and Hospitality Stream to help the province’s tourism and hospitality industry address labour gaps and challenges. 

“The industry drives economic growth, prosperity and jobs throughout the province, especially in communities outside of our urban centers,” said Minister of Immigration and Multiculturalism Muhammad Yaseen during a press conference in Jasper on Tuesday.

“However, hospitality and tourism was one of the industries hardest hit by the pandemic and continues to face challenges today especially in attracting and retaining the labour needed to sustain and grow the sector. Our government is committed to helping address labour gaps and support economic growth.”

The stream is a part of the Alberta Advantage Immigration Program, the province’s economic immigration program to attract and retain talented workers and entrepreneurs. That program allows Albertans to nominate individuals for permanent residency based on their ability to contribute to the economy and meet labour market needs. 

The new stream will launch on March 1. To be eligible, candidates must have a valid full-time, non-seasonal job offer from an approved employer operating within the appropriate industry.

Minister Yaseen said the stream was developed in consultation with sector stakeholders.

“Alberta hotels were among the first businesses hit by the pandemic, the hardest hit by restrictions, and in many ways, the last to recover,” said Tracy Douglas-Blowers, president and chief executive officer of the Alberta Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA).

The organization represents approximately 700 hotels across the province with a combined total of more than 80 per cent of hotel guest rooms. Most of these hotels are small- to medium-sized businesses that are owned and operated by Albertans, not international corporations.

Alberta’s hotels have started that recovery, but many are still struggling to repay debt incurred during the pandemic, especially as they deal with rising insurance, utility and financing costs. 

“With the right policy framework in place, the AHLA believes that there is a tremendous opportunity for tourism to grow Alberta’s economy,” Douglas-Blowers said.

“Access to a skilled workforce has been a critical issue for hotels, which have faced a structural labour shortage for many years. Today’s announcement is a long awaited and much needed policy change.”

Alberta clocked 32 million person-visits that generated $10.7 billion in tourism expenditures, supporting more than 80,000 full-time equivalent jobs, all in 2022. 

“Our government has set a very ambitious goal of doubling the visitor economy spending by 2035. That’s going from $10 billion to over $20 billion – $25 billion to be exact – in visitor expenditures by 2035,” said Minister of Sport and Tourism Joseph Schow.

“We know that reaching that target will take a whole of government approach as we continue to work together to develop new and attractive tourism products, ease labour shortages, and expand access within the province and to the province.” 

By Scott Hayes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Feb 14, 2024 at 10:15

This item reprinted with permission from    The Fitzhugh    Jasper, Alberta

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