Some of the industries hit hardest by the pandemic-induced recession rely on travel and tourism for the vast majority of their business. According to the AHLA State of the Hotel Industry 2021, the hospitality industry workforce is down nearly 4 million jobs compared to this time in 2019. 53.4 percent of job losses in this industry were experienced by women, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and people of color and older workers This sector added 355,000 new jobs in February, making up most of the nonfarm payroll gains in the market, and another 200,000 jobs are expected to be filled this year, though half of U.S. hotel rooms are projected to remain empty in 2021. Airlines have resumed hiring and training new workers as well.
As the weather warms up and vaccines are distributed, much of the American population is feeling a pent-up demand for travel. Improvement in other areas of the economy and financial relief from the government also bode well for destination-focused businesses. Recruiters are looking to hospitality, airlines and restaurants to see what hiring trends will emerge.
Though leisure travel is expected to pick up first, business travel has historically been the largest source of hotel and airline revenue. Experts don’t expect to see much recovery until conferences and business trips are back in full swing, and business travel is not expected to return to 2019 levels until at least 2023 or 2024.
But like so many other lifestyle changes to take shape in the last year, changes in the way we travel will make an impact on recovering businesses. The buzzword “bleisure” was coined before the coronavirus was ever a concern to describe the trend of mixing business travel with pleasure. Digital nomads take extended trips to live and work with a change of scenery, and corporate employees will often extend their stays for some extra time to relax. Some are hoping that this trend will boost bookings for a faster-than-expected recovery.
U.S. airlines lost more than $35 billion last year, but the recently passed coronavirus relief bill saved them from losing tens of thousands of jobs. 27,000 American Airlines and United Airlines were literally told to rip up furlough notices they had received in recent weeks. However, airlines are still collectively losing $150 million a day on average according to Airlines for America. Pilots and staff will grow in demand as travel picks up, and many will receive training from their new employers.
Discount carriers like Spirit Airlines and Allegiant Travel Co. are the most optimistic, and 2 new low-fare carriers Avelo Airlines and Breeze Airways are launching this year. Fortunately, airlines and related businesses won’t have to change much about their operations; airports were already using contactless self-service. Rigorous cleaning standards have become a top priority, and vaccine passports and bacteria-resistant fabrics/materials are being explored as possible solutions.
Traditional hotels have been virtually shut down for the last year, but extended-stay hotels and home-sharing services have been more resilient. Those who have traveled at all have been more likely to travel with family, and the extra space and ability to cook meals within their accommodations have proven essential. Amenities like these are also ideal for the “bleisure” crowd. More hotels are turning public areas into office spaces and updating guest rooms with desks and high-speed internet.
Hotel workers who were paid little before the pandemic have expressed concerns about job security; some companies have begun to operate with fewer employees working overtime. Unemployed workers who have held the same job for years are worried that they may lose priority to others who will accept lower pay. Biden’s relief plan could solve some of these issues: tax credits have been extended for certain employers who voluntarily offer paid leave to workers, and child care providers will receive $39 billion.
Overall, experts predict that domestic travel will bring back some of these jobs since life in quarantine has so many Americans itching for a change of scenery. Local business will bolster restaurants and some related tourism as families take “staycations” and explore their own backyards.
Are you looking to start recruiting as hospitality and tourism pick up in your area this summer and fall? Check out our upcoming Diversity Virtual Job Fairs and see if there is one coming up near you!