A little over two weeks ago, the federal government announced a reactionary policy to cap the number of international student permits, to be applied and weighted by international student population within individual provinces and territories. Along with this policy, the federal government announced eligibility changes to the Post-Graduation Work Permit Program and eligibility changes for open work permits available to spouses of international students.
Given the significant representation of international students in Ontario tourism and hospitality postsecondary programs, the federal cap is expected to disproportionately impact the tourism and hospitality industry. International students and graduates are global assets to the tourism and hospitality workforce, ensuring that Ontario’s service economy can adeptly meet the needs of an increasingly global visitor market.
Since the announcement, TIAO has been engaging in rapid data collection to understand the anticipated tourism industry impacts of the policies, particularly the international student permit cap. According to the member survey we released, almost half of respondents reported that the federal cap on international student permits will affect or might affect their business, with members anticipating recruitment and retention to be more expensive or resource-intensive, not being able to hire for necessary positions, understaffing, and having to scale back services or offerings.
Consultations with TIAO’s post-secondary partners revealed anticipated impacts to tourism and hospitality programs, particularly for programs where international students comprise 50% or more of student enrolment – significantly higher than the University (17.6%) and College (22%) enrolment average in Canada during 2021-2022. With Ontario accounting for 70% of Canada’s international higher education enrolment, food and beverage, events, and other tourism and hospitality sectors that rely heavily on these programs to meet employment demand will be particularly hard-hit.
Using this data, TIAO released a comprehensive response this week to the federal cap on international student permits. We called for immediate consultation and collaboration between tourism stakeholders, the provincial government, and the federal government in order to assess impacts and develop a response plan to protect the viability of post-secondary tourism programs, the experience and opportunities for international students, and the short- and mid-term economic performance of the tourism industry.
We have called for urgent, collaborative solutions to:
Enable tourism employers to competitively recruit and retain talent;
Ensure that international students in-demand sectors like tourism and hospitality can access the jobs they have trained for;
Build a stronger domestic pool of talent; and
Ensure that the supply of attainable housing keeps up with the demand of Ontario’s population.
To read our press release and see our full list of recommendations, click here.
Thank you to members who participated in the survey; RTOs, DMOs, and sector associations for amplifying the survey to tourism operators; and many thanks to our postsecondary partners who shared their insights with us.
International students are a vital contributor to the province’s tourism industry. TIAO will continue to monitor the impacts of the federal cap and will be working with industry, provincial, and federal counterparts on immediate and longer-range solutions.
And in case you missed it, TIAO recently submitted its 2024 pre-budget submission, which you can find here. On top of a range of economic, labour, and infrastructure recommendations, we have called on the Province to work with tourism stakeholders to develop an Ontario tourism growth strategy – one that outlines clear goals to maximize the economic impact of our industry, solidifies our domestically and globally competitive position as a visitor destination, and contributes to sustainable tourism management and growth.
Join us on February 21st at 1pm (EDT) for a fireside chat with me and President & CEO Andrew Siegwart as we do a deep dive into our recommendations. Participants are encouraged to ask questions and share their experiences. Register here for this upcoming Forward Motion session.
Thank you for your continued support. And as always, if you have any questions or comments, feel free to send me an email at email@example.com.
Dr. Jessica Ng, PhD
Director, Policy & Government Affairs
Tourism Industry Association of Ontario