B.C. hotel industry struggling with labour shortages, increased costs

Prince George’s role as service hub helped maintain demand for hotel rooms during pandemic

Nearly three years after the COVID-19 pandemic delivered a gut-punch to B.C.’s hotel industry, workforce shortages that prevent hotels from operating at capacity still hamper the path to recovery.

The province now has as many as 50,000 job vacancies in tourism and hospitality and federally there’s a shortage of 300,000 workers.

The federal government has adjusted its Temporary Foreign Workers policies to allow the hospitality industry to bring in up to 30 per cent of its workforce from other countries. The program allows them to work while they wait for approval as landed immigrants and that’s helped increase employment numbers, but it’s not enough to fill the thousands of jobs currently available in B.C. hotels.

“Many of the hotels are operating at 70 to 80 per cent capacity because they don’t have people to clean the rooms,” said Ingrid Jarrett, president and CEO of the B.C. Hotel Association. “This is the tightest labour market that we’ve seen and it’s not just our industry, it’s construction, manufacturing, many industries because the baby boomers are retiring and the tech sector is growing.”

Fuelled by megaprojects like the LNG Canada gas terminal, BC Hydro’s Site C dam, Trans Mountain Pipeline and Coastal GasLink pipeline, hotels in the Prince George-Prince Rupert-Fort St. John corridor avoided the precipitous drop in business during the pandemic felt more profoundly in Victoria, Vancouver and the Okanagan, whose economies are more dependent on tourism.

Prince George has significantly increased its hotel room inventory over the past five years to meet the demand for rooms, largely driven by the city’s role as northern B.C. hub for goods and services, health care, and the prevalence of large-scale natural resource projects in the region. 

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