The pandemic and ongoing COVID-related restrictions from the state and federal government are having unintended effects on the Bucks County tourism and hospitality industry by turning the usual job openings-to applicant ratio on its head.
It’s not that there aren’t enough jobs to go around. This season, as the industry gears up for a busy time and rebounds from the depths of the pandemic, there aren’t enough applicants to fill the hundreds of positions available.
Consider Sesame Place in Middletown, one of the region’s premier family summer attractions, and its recent job fair.
“Overall, we are looking to fill 800 open positions,” said Dana Ryan, the public relations manager for Sesame Place. “Although there were not as many attendees at this job fair as we would typically see in a non-COVID year, it was extremely successful. We made more offers in one day than we have in most weeks.”
Tourism industry overcomes obstacles
Last year and again earlier this spring, Visit Bucks County embarked on an ambitious targeted advertising campaign intended to highlight the many advantages to vacationing in the county, including highlights of outdoor activities. The tourism organization used funds from the CARES Act to fund the campaign, as well as other initiatives to support businesses. It received $3.7 million.
Even the earliest ads, which including commercials and billboards in New York, Washington and Harrisburg area, were designed to promote safe travel through the pandemic and plant the seeds for future visits, officials said.
Those efforts amongst others have generally allowed the regional tourism industry to enjoy numbers better than those experienced in 2019. About 8.29 million people visited Bucks County in 2019, generating over $1 billion, according to Visit Bucks County’s internal estimates.
Officials say pre-pandemic the hospitality and tourism industry here employed some 29,000 people.
Bucks County tourism:Officials see early promise for spring season here and beyond
“Bucks County fared much better than many destinations in 2020 due to the open, countryside location,” said Visit Bucks County Board Chair Frank Lyons. “Hotel occupancy fell 26 percent last year, but the industry came together and leaned on each other to get where we are today. As vaccine distribution continues, we are seeing more positive consumer sentiment and are optimistic Bucks County will continue on an upward path to tourism recovery.”
Most of the industry hasn’t tracked 2020 visitation numbers, as many entities throughout the county and state were closed for months due to coronavirus precautions.
“The first thing we are seeing is that occupancy isn’t far off from April 2019 numbers. In April, we saw hotels that were 70 percent occupation on Friday and 80 percent occupation on Saturday, which is a good indicator of travel,” said Visit Bucks County President and COO Paul Bencivengo. “We are already seeing people are starting to travel again to Bucks County.
” … Research is definitely showing that people are planning to travel to and visit Bucks