The demand for hospitality workers has improved in 2011, with 150,000 new workers added to employment rolls in the first four months of the year, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“That’s a significant improvement over last year, when the sector added less than 70,000 new hires,” says jobs expert John Challenger, CEO of Chicago-based outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. “As consumer confidence returns and people have a little more discretionary spending power, the market for hospitality jobs will heat up more.”
Hotel Hiring Looking Good
Lodging is doing well as people begin to take long weekends or full-fledged vacations, Challenger says. He also notes that amusement parks are good seasonal performers, and gambling destinations are seeing year-round activity return. Business travel is also bouncing back, according to the Global Business Travel Association, which projects a 7 percent increase in total business travel spending in 2011.
Ginger Speir, senior vice president of development and talent acquisitions for Parkway Hospitality Management, a Baltimore-based hospitality-management firm, says she is also seeing positive trends in all areas of the industry. “We anticipate a slow but steady increase in overall occupancy and group bookings, and companies are beginning to book off-site meetings that had been abandoned over the past couple of years,” she says.
Increased business and leisure activity drives demand across the hospitality job market. “Typically the largest department in a hotel -- the housekeeping staff -- will see increases first,” says Rick Holliday, CEO of Atlanta-based Hospitality Staffing Solutions. Higher occupancy also increases hotel jobs for laundry and kitchen staff, banquet servers, chefs and stewards, he says. In parallel, opportunities for wedding planners, meeting planners, event planners and technical specialists also improve.
And while Americans aren’t traveling abroad like they used to, hotels in Europe and Asia are hiring thanks to local demand. “The large hotel companies are really focusing on expansion plans -- especially to Asia -- and they are seeking individuals who can work in these emerging markets,” says Jonathan Galaviz, chief economist for Galaviz & Company, a Las Vegas-based travel and leisure consulting firm.
Budget Squeeze Impacting Some Corners
However, with every level of government feeling the financial squeeze, the number of hospitality jobs at publicly owned facilities is declining. “The hardest times are for people looking for anything that relies on public funding -- local, state and national parks and historic sites,” Challenger explains. “They’re facing real budget issues that are leading to cutbacks.”
In some states like California, entire parks are being closed, including the lodges and cabins within their boundaries. So if your dream is a hospitality job at a guest ranch in the Grand Canyon or a rustic lodge at Yosemite, expect fewer openings and very high competition.
“This is a difficult time to find employment no matter what industry you are in,” says Tristyn Wright, vice president of operations with Lansing Entertainment and Public Facilities Authority in Lansing, Michigan. “The hospitality industry is a very demanding, high-energy industry and has a high rate of employee turnover -- more so [in front-line customer service/guest services jobs], so there is usually an opportunity for front-line employment.”
On the management level, proven performers in their hospitality careers will always be in demand.
“If you are really good at your particular position and are ambitious and eager to get ahead, you will,” Wright says. “Once talent is recognized, other facilities will try and capture it. You may be a very skilled VP in your current facility entertaining offers to be a CEO in similar-size market facilities across the country.”
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