Marie-Josée Blanchet
Senior Manager | Co-leader of Tourism-Leisure-Culture | MBA | Business Transformation

The labour shortage has been particularly severe in the tourism industry, an important segment of our economy. What can be done to address this challenge—which will not go away in the short term—and what are the solutions for your organization?

Quebec’s tourism industry has seen strong growth. It represents $14 billion in revenues and around 400,000 direct and indirect jobs at 30,000 different businesses.

However, this growth is hampered by a lack of workers. The labour shortage has been a challenge for several years now for a number of reasons, including a lack of interest in low-paying jobs, difficult work conditions and the ageing of the population. The pandemic seems to have aggravated these problems.

To keep your business viable over the next few years, you will need to consider a transformation of your business model.

How to adjust your business model

Of course, there are medium and long-term solutions that can solve part of the problem: for example, investing in automation or recruiting internationally.

In the shorter term, SMEs in the tourism industry can expand their pool of potential employees by encouraging seniors to stay at work or return from retirement and they can take advantage of wage subsidy programs to integrate youth and people with disabilities.

However, this won’t be enough for many businesses and you will need to find personalized solutions.

To help yourself find the solution that works best for you, start by evaluating your current situation and answering some key questions: What is your objective? What will your value proposition be? Which partner can help you deliver it? Here are some key things to consider when adapting your business model to the new reality.

Enhance the customer experience, one element at a time

Your customers are at the heart of your business. To maintain an optimal customer experience despite the labour shortage, you first need to identify your touchpoints before, during and after the interaction with the consumer. Then you can find ways to address problem areas, one aspect at a time. Here are some potential solutions:

  • Improve your website management and step up your presence on social media, by subcontracting if necessary.
  • Optimize your booking platform.
  • Prioritize in-person reception, which is very important to customers.
  • Use parking pay stations.
  • Offer packages that enable remote working and promote long stays.
  • Offer enticing deals in low season when it’s less difficult to find staff.
  • Consider focusing on business customers on weekdays and staying closed on weekends.

Pay attention to the employee experience

The same approach applies to points of contact with your employees. So how do you attract employees and make them want to stay?

  • Improve the onboarding process: ensure the wellbeing of new employees and give them feedback.
  • Promote engagement: build strong relationships with your employees, recognize their accomplishments.
  • Give employees more enriching tasks: workers who are given the opportunity to grow will want to stay with your company.
  • Reduce work hours or business hours: this will also help improve work-life balance.
  • Offer reduced hours to students during exam time.
  • Embrace and promote your role as top employer: participate in job fairs and post attractive offers on social media.

Integrate digital solutions

Automation gets talked about a lot, and it’s important, but it should not come at the expense of the customer experience. People are central when it comes to creating meaningful relationships and interactions in the tourism industry.

You will need to be smart about the way you integrate technology so you can tackle the labour shortage while improving productivity and reducing time spent on repetitive tasks so your employees can spend more time with clients. Consider getting training for yourself and your employees on using digital inventory, transaction and scheduling tools. Choose digital tools that are user-friendly and will appeal to the younger generation (and to everyone in general!).

Adopt a less labour-reliant business model

Does a company really need to constantly grow and increase its revenues? “Small is beautiful” might just become the new watchword in the tourism industry. The key is to identify your target clientele (the main source for your profitability) and concentrate your efforts there.

For example, if you’re a restaurant owner, you might opt to ditch lunch and focus on dinner, or position yourself as a neighbourhood eatery that’s open on weekdays and closed on weekends. Or if you’re a hotel owner, you could choose to focus on business clientele so you don’t have to stay open seven days a week.

Maintaining the status quo is impossible. Owners and employees of tourism SMEs are already exhausted. The situation is not sustainable in the long term. The end goal is not to be open as long as possible. It is to offer a great customer experience and a great employee experience while respecting sustainable development best practices.

The sector must work together

Tourism organizations need to rethink their marketing strategies, target audiences and offers so they can meet the needs of SMEs and ensure a sustainable recovery. They have to promote teamwork and the sharing of resources from here and elsewhere in order to boost creativity and generate new ideas.

It is all well and good to spend money to promote a region, but you have to make sure that local hotels and businesses have the capacity to receive tourists. It would be more effective, for example, to encourage them to travel to less visited regions or come to you during low season, and to cut down on content and advertising for sites that are already very popular.

Develop local partnerships to boost your region’s visibility and appeal. Include cultural activities, explorations and educational experiences in your offer. The creativity of service providers plays an important role in tourists’ choices and allows businesses to diversify their offer and better manage tourist flows.

The circular economy is an interesting trend to promote. For example, you might consider promotional tie-ins or cross-selling with a partner that has a complementary service offer. This economic model has been gaining popularity because it allows businesses to share human and material resources, preventing losses and enhancing efficiency.

So where do you start? Before all else, you need to produce a detailed assessment of your organization and its environment. A good diagnosis will help you reframe your business model, prepare an action plan and prioritize actions based on your timeline and your situation.

17 Nov 2021  |  Written by :

Marie-Josée Blanchet is an expert in Business Transformation consulting at Raymond Chabot Grant...

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The Grant Thornton International IFRS team has published the 2021 version of IFRS Example Consolidated Financial Statements 2021.

The IFRS Example Consolidated Financial Statements 2021 have been updated to reflect changes in IFRS that are effective for the year ending December 31, 2021. No account has been taken of any new developments published after October 31, 2021.

Given that the global COVID-19 pandemic still impacted several reporting entities during 2021, the 2021 version comments on information that might be relevant to disclose around the COVID-19 in the financial statements.

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If your business is experiencing financial difficulties, rest assured that financial recovery solutions are available. But sometimes selling is the best option.

If your business has been ravaged by financial difficulties, selling it may be the best way to avoid bankruptcy. What are the steps? How do you protect your employees, customers, suppliers and the organization’s value? Here’s an overview of the financial turnaround process and how to connect with potential buyers.

Current situation in the wake of the pandemic

A lot of small and mid-size businesses have faced hardship since the beginning of 2020. In fact, 71% of SMBs have gone into debt as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. On average, they owe $170,000 and three-quarters of these businesses will need more than 1 year to pay down their debt. In Quebec, insolvencies jumped 17% between the second quarters of 2020 and 2021. Now that government subsidies are winding down, the trend is only expected to get worse.

Insolvency trustees and financial recovery advisors know that entrepreneurs tend to be optimistic and solutions-oriented. They’ll try everything before seeking help from specialists. Whether a business has lost an important client, been hit with significantly higher material costs or simply lost control over their finances, most owners will try to set things straight on their own. After all, bold initiative is what got their business off the ground in the first place.

Provide temporary flexibility

Sooner or later, creditors will start demanding repayment. When this happens, many entrepreneurs look for short-term solutions that can actually reduce their chances of getting their finances back on track over the long term. They might take out a high-interest loan or personally guarantee their business’ debts, etc. This is often the stage when they’ll reach out to a financial turnaround specialist. And yet, involving a specialist earlier on would give you more time and options to turn your finances around. What will a specialist do to help?

1. Identify difficulties

Your financial recovery specialist will start by helping you determine what’s causing the problem. This is key in order to come up with the right strategy for your organization.

2. Propose an action plan

Once the issues have been determined, the recovery specialist will propose an action plan that reflects your business’ specific circumstances.

3. Place the business under the protection of the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act

At this stage, it’s a good idea to seek protection for your business under the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act. Doing so can prevent a shutdown and eventual bankruptcy, if:

• your company’s debt load is so high that it’s unable to borrow more;
• your company is no longer able to find investors to provide liquidity;
• pressure from your business’ existing creditors is jeopardizing your operations.

Bankruptcy protection is used to temporarily prevent creditors from seeking recourse against your organization’s assets. It also freezes the company’s liabilities. This eases some of the pressure from creditors and gives the company time to prepare a proposal to creditors and restructure the business.

4. Find investors

If you’re able to inject cash back into the business, the funds can be used to finance a settlement with creditors or future operations. Rather than using the funds to cover past losses, you’ll be investing in the future.

If this isn’t possible, the insolvency trustee can help you find a shareholder interested in gaining a stake in the company. The investor’s funds will be used to rekindle the business and settle with your creditors.

However, finding an investor isn’t always possible, especially if the company is in dire straights and market conditions are particularly unfavourable. When this is the case, the best way to save the business is to sell it. This can be hard for business owners to accept. But the advantage is that you can save jobs, preserve relationships with your customers and suppliers, and enable the business to remain operational.

Selling a struggling business

If you have no choice but to sell your business, your insolvency trustee can help you keep it up and running. After all, the objective of the law is to protect the business.

Acting quickly can help you avoid losing suppliers and customers, which could reduce your business’ value or even jeopardize its survival. To make the process successful, you’ll need support from your key employees and you may want to offer them a bonus for staying on.

1. Prepare a presentation document

Your trustee will prepare a document to present the company and provide a transparent description of its financial situation.

2. Approach competitors and suppliers

Next, your trustee will approach competitors who may be interested in broadening their customer base or expanding their operations. Other potential buyers could be suppliers and customers interested in vertically integrating their operations.

3. Ensure you get the right price

At this stage, the trustee will make sure that no decision is made that could worsen the company’s financial situation. The goal is to obtain the best possible price for the business, given the circumstances. The sale will have to be approved by the court.

The advantages of an acquisition for the buyer

Even though the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act provides various tools to proceed with an acquisition, most of the time the buyer of an insolvent business only acquires its assets. Then it’s up to the buyer to figure out how to make these assets profitable.

Acquisitions can be very useful for companies looking to expand. They get the assets, but not the debts, since any amounts owing remain attributable to the insolvent legal entity.

If your business is experiencing financial difficulties, our recovery specialists can help keep the business operational and assist you through the remaining steps.

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Stéphane Paré
Manager | Ph. D., Chemistry | Business Transformation

ITI’s offer has become much more diverse over the past 30 years. The company talks about the importance of optimizing its processes to drive growth.

Previously operating as ProContact, ITI was founded 30 years ago and initially focused on computer manufacturing and repairs. But the company evolved over the years and it now offers a range of services and solutions covering everything from IT consulting to infrastructure.

Its mandate is to help medium- and large-size businesses from both the public and private industries get the technologies they need to grow. Today, ITI employs roughly 350 people, mainly in Quebec City and Laval, but also in other Canadian cities.

In 2018, ITI welcomed new shareholders in a bid to accelerate growth and propel the company to the forefront of the Quebec industry. After completing a full rebranding, ITI set its sights on a cross-Canada expansion. To make this possible, the company actively sought ideas on how to optimize its operations in order to work more efficiently and gain a foothold in new markets.

“Our company is already known for having a great team that offers sound expertise while maintaining close relationships with customers. So our next challenge was to make our operations more efficient so that we could maintain our growth capacity,” said Steve Morin, ITI’s Vice-President, Partnerships and Business Strategies.

Improving efficiency to support growth

ITI’s shareholders knew they needed to improve operational performance with solutions that were both sustainable and profitable. Recognizing that the company didn’t have the in-house capabilities required to improve their processes, they turned to our experts for help.

ITI’s main objectives were to:

  • Optimize processes across all practices to streamline the company’s operations;
  • Reduce file volumes and manual data entry to increase productivity;
  • Update its IT systems and connect them to the newly developed processes to help the company achieve its goals.

The first step was to gain a solid understanding of ITI’s operational processes so that we could determine where there were opportunities to optimize. Then, based on the findings of this initial exercise, the company wanted to identify a high-performance management software ecosystem that would facilitate the journey for their employees and customers.

Our team worked jointly with ITI staff to map all of the company’s major processes. This gave us an overview and helped us understand how one team’s actions impacted other teams. This step is always very enlightening. Our work took place over four months in early 2020. We held workshops with employees to challenge current procedures, identify best practices and come up with the best possible solutions for the company. Ultimately, we generated more than 150 solutions, including quick-wins and ideas to implement over the medium and long terms.

Concrete solutions for improving productivity

“By October 2020, just five months after receiving the recommendations, we had already implemented 80% of the proposed solutions. The remaining actions—those slated for implementation over the medium and long terms—are dependent on management software that’s still being installed. Once it’s up and running, they may be re-evaluated,” explained Steve Morin.

From September 2020 to spring 2021, we helped ITI’s team define the organization’s needs and choose the right integrated management programs to boost their efficiency and productivity. The software package that was retained is more than just a standard system; it can support several different applications to meet diverse needs, such as sales force management, project management and corporate function management.

Our optimization team includes people who specialize in IT, finance, change management and lean management. They work together to find ways to streamline procedures, optimize workflows and improve productivity overall.

“I don’t think we would have been able to achieve all this on our own. We made a commitment and the team from Raymond Chabot Grant Thornton, with their attentiveness and expertise, kept us on track and on schedule. Improving processes is something that takes a lot of discipline. Letting them take the lead allowed us to take a step back, just like we do with our clients for their technology projects,” said Steve Morin.

In addition to coming up with optimized solutions, the collaboration led to an unexpected result for ITI: they came away with a continuous improvement culture. The exercise helped the company’s leadership team realize just how important it is to review procedures on a regular basis. As a result, they’ve set up a process for managing complaints and suggesting improvements.

Any company can optimize its operations. What’s the key to success? Decision-makers who believe that it’s possible and are willing to invest the time that it takes to make it happen.

09 Nov 2021  |  Written by :

Stéphane Paré is a Business Transformation expert at Raymond Chabot Grant Thornton. Contact him...

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