The shortage of manpower for the winter season is confirmed in the ski resorts of Canada, which depend heavily on international workers and the approval of the Canada visa by the federal government. This shortage is reaching unprecedented heights, in a decisive context for many players in mountain tourism.

An international labor shortage

Winter is on its way, with its share of expectations and hopes for a lasting revival of tourist activity in winter sports resorts around the world. In Canada, with the reopening of international borders to vaccinated travelers and vaccination passports, the resumption of tourist activity is well underway. Paul Pinchbeck, CEO of Ski Canada, discusses in detail this exceptional winter season in every way.

“We have significant demand for skiing, as evidenced by early season bookings and season pass sales. But we are short of several thousand employees across the country and that will hamper our ability to offer all of our services this year, ” he said.

THE MAGNITUDE OF THIS PHENOMENON CANNOT BE UNDERESTIMATED

Michael Ballingall, vice president of Big White Ski Resort in Kelowna, British Columbia, said about 60% of his staff were international workers , holding a two-year International Experience Canada visa before the pandemic.

Big White ski resort
Big White ski resort – Source: bigwhite.com

COVID crisis made it difficult to obtain Canada visas

The Big White station normally sees an influx of applications for seasonal workers in the fall, but the pandemic is making it difficult to obtain work visas. The station is currently at 45% of its staffing capacity . Michael Ballingall warns that secondary services, such as reception, would suffer if nothing changes.

Irish visa applicant Lili Minah has previously been offered a job as a bartender at one of Mooney Supply Group’s three restaurants in the Big White station. She hopes to receive a response from Immigration Canada before her flight to British Columbia on November 20. “If they don’t send me a response for the visa, I guess it will just be a vacation,” she said. Ana Mooney, who offered Minah the maid job, said 60% of their staff usually have visas. He still has to hire around 50 employees before the season. To date, three staff members had already chosen to stay at home because the visa process had taken too long.

Ski resort Big White

“Tourism has been hit hard by COVID. Having a tough second season means some people won’t weather the storm,” she says. “It’s not just in the ski industry, it’s tourism in general. With the opening of the borders, there will be more and more visitors, but we do not have the manpower to welcome them.”

Expiring visas for employees

Michael Ballingall said only a small number of visas are being processed, while permits for people allowed to work last year expire, leaving workers and ski resorts in limbo. “When the pandemic hit, a lot of (international workers) still had their visas, so they could work for us last year , ” he explains. “This year, most of these people are still in the country but their visas have expired, so we are pressuring the government to reactivate the visas”

Big white ski resort
Bullet Creek Cabins – Source: bigwhite.com

Gemma Nicolle, 30, worked two winters in retail in Big White and is hoping her work visa will be reinstated in time for ski season. “I’m going to have to start working again very soon to be able to stay here, towards the end of November. If nothing improves, I will probably have to go home , ”she said.

A lobbying company to convince the government

The Western Canada Ski Resorts Association and the Canadian Ski Council joined with Big White in hiring a lobbying firm to convince the government to reinstate expired visas.

“WE NEED MORE PEOPLE AND WE ASK THE GOVERNMENT TO HELP US REVIVE OUR BUSINESSES BUT ALSO TO PROVIDE A BOOST FOR CANADIAN TOURISM IN GENERAL”

said Paul Pinchbeck.

Big White ski resort
Gondola lift at Big White ski resort – Source: bigwhite.com

“Last year we didn’t have this urgent need as we had to deal with the different waves of COVID and we expected a reduction in activity. This year we have proven that this is an industry that can operate in a safe and responsible manner. Governments know much more about this virus and its transmission. Today, we are convinced that we will need these people to relaunch our activity. “

Obtaining a priority Canada visa for essential positions

For its part, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) evokes in an email the reasons for these delays. Continuing border restrictions and the inability of customers to obtain documents due to the pandemic, they say, are hurdles in visa processing. These reasons hamper their ability to finalize requests, creating unusual delays.

Big White Ski_resort-family_canada
Big White Ski Resort (Canada)

“Since the onset of the pandemic, IRCC has prioritized applications from workers in critical positions in agriculture and health care, where the workforce is most needed to protect the health of Canadians and ensure a supply sufficient food, ” explained the Ministry. “Despite these efforts, we know that some applicants have experienced considerable wait times with the processing of their applications. We continue to work as quickly as possible to reduce overall processing times”.

However, the vice-president of the Big White ski resort remains calm. The station hopes to attract Canadian workers this winter, once the Canadian Emergency Benefit ends. “We will start to panic around November 1 if nothing changes. There are simply not enough Canadians in the ski employment pool right now to satisfy the industry. Something must give way. 

Big White Ski Resort (Canada) – Source: bigwhite.com

Source: The Canadian Press – CTV News