Hospitality Jobs Hiring Forecast for 2010
Who doesn't want to take a vacation or enjoy dinner out at a nice restaurant? However for many, personal budget cuts due to the economy mean "staycations" and home-cooked meals. The belt-tightening brought on by the current recession carries over into the corporate world too, where budgets have slashed business travel and dining to the bone.
Economists and industry experts agree that spending on business and personal travel and entertainment will improve only slightly through 2010. The US Travel Association estimates that leisure travel will rise 2 percent, business travel by 2.5 percent and international inbound travel by nearly 3 percent. The result, not surprisingly, is a sluggish job market in the hotel and dining sectors.
“Challenged,” that’s how Jim Horan describes the hospitality industry, which includes hotels, restaurants and the like. “I don’t think we have ever before seen the type of economic challenges we’re seeing today,” says Horan, CEO of Blue Plate, a catering and events company in Chicago. “While we [saw] a gradual onset with this recession, it has become relentless, and it appears to be true in just about all sectors of our industry.”
That observation jives with Bureau of Labor Statistics data that reports that the hospitality industry lost 114,000 jobs since January 2009. While some experts anticipate a recovery will begin with holiday travel, full-time hiring is expected to remain tight in 2010.
Hotels and Restaurants Suffer, and Recover, Together
Smith Travel Research reports that overall US hotel occupancy fell 9.9 percent to 56.6 percent from January to September 2009, driving some properties into mortgage delinquency. Equally troubling statistics stemmed from the food industry. Last year alone, 21,000 restaurants went out of business, according to Dick Wray, CEO of California-based Dick Wray Executive Search.
There are a few bright spots, however. Quick-service and fast-casual eateries are doing well and are hiring at most levels, Wray says. This sector includes restaurants like Pizza Hut, KFC and Panera Bread. Though people have to eat, they don’t have to stay at hotels and resorts. The hotels that are hiring are typically well-established properties that have held room rates and occupancy levels fairly steady during the downturn.
“Hotels and restaurants aren’t hiring in the same numbers, but there are still jobs out there to be had,” says Bruce Tracey, associate professor of management at the Cornell School of Hotel Administration.
To help boost the industry, Congress is working on a "travel promotion” bill that creates a public-private partnership to market the United States to international travelers. The program could create an estimated 40,000 US hospitality jobs, according to Oxford Economics. The Senate version of the bill is expected to clear by year end, and a related bill is currently in front of the House for consideration. It’s unclear if the legislation would get to President Obama’s desk before 2009 runs out, however.
How to Get a Job in the Hospitality Industry
With fewer hospitality jobs available, standing out from the competition is critical to landing a position. Here are some tips for getting noticed:
• Illustrate that you have the ability to focus on a task or problem and see it through. “This is especially important for millennials,” Tracey notes.
• Dress professionally, even if you’re going for a food-service line job. “There are dozens of people standing behind you to get that job,” Wray says. “Make a great first impression, because that’s the lasting impression.”
• Be humble. “You’re going to have to suck it up a little more than you wanted to and accept that the opportunity you think you’re entitled to probably isn’t there right now,” Tracey explains.
“When I chat with senior and executive vice presidents [of restaurant and hotel groups], their term is ‘cautiously optimistic’,” Tracey notes. “There is pent-up demand out there, and we’re heading into the holidays. When people are flying, they’re staying in hotels and eating out.”
Horan agrees, though with guarded optimism: “Early indicators are better business in 2010 than what we saw in 2009. But it won’t take much to see an improvement.”
Learn more about hospitality careers.