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.”

Rodney Anderson interviews Ryann Harris of Trenton, NJ for an opening during a job fair  at Sesame Place in Langhorne. Sesame Place, like most entertainment facilities around the country, are looking to hire workers, but having a hard time acquiring those employees.
Potential employees enter the park looking for employment  during a job fair at Sesame Place in Langhorne.

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. 

Promoting Bucks::Bucks County tourism ads plant seeds for travel now and post-pandemic

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.

One of the performers dances and sings on stage during a job fair at Sesame Place in Langhorne.

”  … Research is definitely showing that people are planning to travel to and visit Bucks

MADISON- For Madison Academy’s Mya Clark, the time was well worth the wait. The dynamo softball player is having a banner sophomore season after playing in just five games over the past two seasons.

The “Big Hurt,” so nicknamed by her father, through 16 games of the 2021 Mustangs’ schedule is batting .649 with 9 homers, 30 RBIs and nine stolen bases while pitching 33 innings recording 47 strikeouts and a 6-2 won-loss record. Overall, Madison Academy is 14-2 on the season.

The remarkable softball travels of the 5-foot-10, 155-pound Clark began as a seventh grader when she was a varsity starter for the Lee High Generals of Huntsville. She attended the Academy of Academics and Arts and played for the Generals where she took to shortstop and pitcher. Her father wanted her to be more challenged both academically and athletically and through conversations with Madison Academy head softball coach Dean Clark chose to enter the private school. Upon entering her new learning center, and according to Alabama High School Athletic Association rules, was forced to sit out and miss her eighth grade softball season.

“I was able to practice with the team, but attended games as a team manager,” said the 15-year old Clark. “At the time we only had one strong pitcher and I felt bad as I couldn’t help the team. The time away from games, but still able to work out, got me ready for that summer’s travel ball.”

The talent the young player possess was well showcased in her summer play with the D-1 Vision Premier travel team, which featured players from throughout the Southeast and games constantly on the road. The only child to Greg and Shondra Clark was quickly drawing the attention of college scouts even before she reached high school.

“I have received school questionnaires from all over the country,” said Clark. “Right now, I’d love to play for either Tennessee or Texas as I’m looking to earn a degree to become a nurse anesthetist.”

“She does lots of things very well as she’s big and strong and can pitcher as she throws hard and is very affective,” said head coach Dean Clark. “She can play anywhere we need her. She definitely will be a Div. I prospect.”

Her freshman season a year ago was also cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Mustangs played just five games before having to close the schedule. Again, Clark took advantage of the time away from games by working out, becoming stronger and fine-tuned her pitching talents.

“This season, I’m loving it as I was bummed about last year,” added Clark. “I’m trying to help get us to the playoffs and do our best on the field.”

Clark once took lessons in dance, piano and violin and was urged to excel in a musical talent so to be able to attend the Academy of Academic and Arts. When she has time she also dabbles in some community service. Clark and her family currently reside