14 JUL 2017: Getting tourists to visit Jasper is not a problem, particularly this year when Parks Canada is giving free admission to the national parks. The problem lies in getting enough staff to service the tourists who visit the Alberta town with a population of 4,600.

Last year, between April and the end of July, Parks Canada counted one million Jasper National Park visitors, the highest number of visitors to the park in a decade.

By June 9 of this year, there were still 380 jobs available in Jasper, (double the number of jobs posted the same time last year).

Ginette Marcoux, executive director for the Jasper Employment and Education Centre said,  "For a small community that requires a lot of workers for the tourism sector it's definitely pause for concern. These are numbers that we've never seen for this time of year."  

A number of factors may have contributed to this high rate of unfilled jobs.

One is the Temporary Workers Program, which allows employers to bring in foreign workers to fill temporary jobs in Canada that are going unfilled.  

In 2014 amid reports that companies were misusing it, the rules of the programme were changed to prevent employers in the low-wage service sector from accessing that programme if the regional unemployment rate is six percent or higher. It is in fact, closer to 6.9 percent.

The number of temporary workers dropped by 76 percent.

Marcoux also stated that only about 40 percent of job postings include accommodations when affordable housing is already a concern in that area.

In years past, homeowners would rent out rooms to summer workers. With real estate prices soaring, people are now using their spaces as bed and breakfast options to tourists, to benefit from higher rates.

The final factor is the low number of students working in Jasper.  Although most employers want staff to stay until the summer tourist season is over, students often leave mid August to get ready to go back to school.

For some reason, this year fewer students arrived, and that is perplexing those in tourism.


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