Before the coronavirus pandemic hit the United States, visitor spending had reached just over $500 million in Genesee County. Of that spending in 2019, $45 million went toward lodging alone, according to a report prepared by Tourism Economics for the Michigan Tourism Office.
While the numbers have yet to be released for 2020, it’s safe to assume they will be considerably lower than years past. That’s because as COVID-19 cases increased, travel went on the decline. So much so that, as of December 2020, 63 percent of Michigan hotels reported they had fewer than half of their typical staff working full-time.
Locally, many hotels had to make staffing cuts and reduce hours. But now, as spring rolls in and social distancing policies have relaxed some, they face the opposite challenge. They need to increase their staffing levels before convention and sporting events season begins. Several events— including the Michigan Association for Economic Developers Council’s Best Practices Conference in May and the Firestix Tournament in July—are already scheduled and we expect to see more bookings come through in in the coming weeks and months.
For these hotels to fully take advantage of the expected rebound coming their way, they need to hire a number of new employees for positions ranging from front desk clerks to shuttle service drivers. That’s where the Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce comes in. For the first time ever, we’re hosting a virtual hospitality job fair where area job seekers can meet with 10 area hotels seeking to fill open positions in Genesee County.
The event, which will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 8, is a great opportunity not just for our local hoteliers, but also for the interviewees who attend. For many, these entry-level positions can serve as a stepping-stone to a fulfilling career path in the hospitality industry. While customer service experience is preferred, the main thing these employers are looking for is a willingness to learn. In this particular industry, being cross-trained and being willing to take on a variety of responsibilities can lead to career growth.
For example, after getting her start a front desk clerk in the mid-2000s, Courtney Neely has held several positions at multiple properties over the course of the last 12 years. As Neely, who now serves the dual director of sales at the Residence Inn by Marriott-Flint/ Grand Blanc Area and Courtyard by Marriott Flint Grand Blanc, explains it: “You’re never going to meet a general manager that came fresh out of college—everyone starts at the front desk or someplace similar.”
If you’re interested in getting your start in the hospitality industry, I encourage you to sign up for the upcoming job fair at flintandgenesee.org/jobfair. You’ll also have the opportunity to register for optional resume-writing and interview refresher courses in the days leading up to the event.
Kristina Johnston is the COO of the Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce.