Motivating Seasonal Employees

Many tourism operators have come up with novel ways to minimize seasonal employee burnout and the impact on guests that can occur when employees become tired and unmotivated.

The seasonality of the tourism industry provides ideal employment for students and people wanting short-term employment. The drive is there for them to work as many hours as they can to earn the money they need to pursue their dreams. But few tourism operations escape that mid-season lull when employees “hit the wall” from the long hours, the constant barrage of visitors, and the need to be “on” all the time.


Panorama Mountain Village’s goal is to keep employees motivated and active by creating high-energy programs that keep them pumped up for the season. Since one of the primary motivators for most young employees working at a ski hill is to ski, one of company’s best employee motivators is the Peak Program. Since the resort is only two hours from Banff, the Peak Program provides subsidized bus transportation to a different peak every two weeks, so staff can experience the joy of skiing or boarding all over the Banff area. Because of the large staff (more than 500 employees), Panorama also runs a broomball league to help keep the employees from different areas connected. About 120 employees take part in the weekly game, followed by a Jam Night at the bar, at which participation is encouraged by both employees and guests. Panorama understands that recognizing employees who live up to their mission of “creating memories for our staff, guests, owners and community” also goes a long way to keeping them motivated. “Yes We Can” points and “Instant Win” envelopes are used to reinforce the company’s core values, recognizing employees who have taken charge of situations and created a positive outcome for guests.


Vancouver Trolley Company monitors the fatigue level of its drivers and guides very carefully. Not only does fatigue affect the driver’s response to guest needs, it affects their ability to drive safely. VTC does not have the same issues as a lot of operators, because their staff are mature (the average age of the drivers is 45) and able to judge their own energy levels. Having said that, VTC management, adds that morale is not something you wait until August to address. You work all year to make sure employees feel part of a family unit, making them feel appreciated through rewards such as complimentary ice cream or cold juice after a long shift, or company BBQs several times during the season. VTC managers time these events so that all the drivers can participate as they finish their shifts, which may be any time from 5:00 to 10:00 pm.


Rocky Mountaineer Railtours executives agree: you don’t address employee morale problems only when they become an issue, but instead you do a good job of looking after them on an ongoing basis. One of the most successful programs at RMR is the Community Spirit committee. This program is employee-driven and involves raising money for community charities through fun activities like ice cream days, potlucks, and Fun Fridays. Not only do all the employees get involved in the events, the money raised presents Rocky Mountaineer as a good corporate citizen in the community. The company also hosts a picnic for all employees and their families right in the middle of the season to acknowledge the commitment and pressure of a busy summer on their staff.

Despite the different activities these operators use to motivate employees, the consistent theory is to provide ongoing informal recognition to help employees feel engaged and part of a team or family. What are your methods for motivating seasonal employees? Submit your stories to go2HR today.