One of Canada's most picturesque destinations is struggling with a flood of tourists and an unprecedented lack of staff to serve them. Jasper, Alta., population 4,600, desperately needs more than 300 people to fill jobs in hotels, bars, restaurants and tour companies.
"For a small community that requires a lot of workers for the tourism sector
As the nation celebrates its 150th birthday, Parks Canada is giving free admission to all national parks, which could lead to a record number of visits to Jasper.
"We are being overrun and we're loving it to death," says Micheal
"Sometimes the housekeepers end up shortcutting on the rooms," he says. "The floors don't get washed properly, then you have unhappy customers."
"So that's where it starts to fail. The service starts to deteriorate and the customer satisfaction goes down, and then nobody's happy."
Working in the resort town's tourist sector was seen as a means to the genuine mountain experience — washing dishes, tending bar or cleaning rooms in exchange for the chance to spend time hiking, canoeing and climbing in the area's idyllic wilderness.
But this year, for whatever reason, students are staying away.
"We didn't get a lot of applicants from different university types.
"That is a really good question. We're not really sure where they are," says Marcoux.
But among possible explanations are low wages and lack of affordable accommodation.
As real estate prices have soared in the mountain park town, many homeowners have begun to help pay their mortgages by converting spare bedrooms, once rented inexpensively to summer workers, into higher priced bed and breakfasts. More than 200 homes in the small town are renting rooms to tourists.
"When you think about it, we're potentially taking all those numbers away from possible staff accommodation in the summertime especially," says Marcoux.
But housing can't take all the blame. Many of the area's hotels provide places where staff can stay, and they still can't fill jobs.
As a result, business owners, managers and those who have come to work in Jasper are being run off their feet.
Wasuita finds himself cleaning toilets, washing floors, and then working the desk till late. "I'm still working the front desk at 10, 11 o'clock at night to make sure that everybody's got enough blankets, to make sure their toaster works," he says, "It just goes on and on. So it's a full day for me."
These are full and exhausting days for many in Jasper, and the peak tourist season is only beginning.
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