Hotel Jobs Down 40% from Pre-Pandemic Levels in New York

August 9, 2021

Photo courtesy of North Star Meeting Group

New York State’s hotel industry has been one of the hardest hit industries over the course of the pandemic. According to a new report released by the American Hotel & Lodging Association, the industry will end the year with almost 40% fewer jobs than it had in 2019. 

One must remember that hotels bring in employment and revenue not only for themselves but also indirectly for a number of other sectors and businesses. According to a study by Oxford Economics, a typical hotel supports an additional 26 jobs in the community per every 10 people directly employed. Thus, while direct employees such as housekeepers and front desk agents rely on the industry’s wellbeing in order to work, so do other workers in a variety of converging industries including restaurants, retail, attractions and live events, transportation services, small business vendors and suppliers amongst others. Given this basis, it is difficult to reckon with the severe decline in the number of hotel jobs in New York. The number had already substantially decreased in 2020, down to 69,088 from 116,106 in 2019, but 2021’s reports are even worse. 

Given the slow recovery process, or lack thereof now that the Delta variant is running rampant, employment in New York hotels will reportedly only inch up to 72,077 jobs this year; this will make it the highest rate of job loss of any state in the U.S. according to the report. For reference, this 37.9% rate is nearly double the average job loss of all hotels in the country and stands in stark contrast to rates of other tourism-centric states such as California (26.8), Florida (21.5), and Hawaii (28.8). Another report released by the New York City Hotels Association found that, whereas New York City hotels employed 55,000 workers pre-pandemic, they only permanently employ 15,000 now; this marks a near 70% job loss. Additionally, the Association’s report also found that the number of city hotel rooms has plummeted from 130,000 pre-pandemic to 100,000 now. 

The Association’s president, Vijay Dandapani, spoke out about the industry’s future. Countering Mayor de Blasio’s hopeful predictions that the city’s $30 million marketing campaign will quickly boost tourism, Dandapani stated that “we are a gateway city. We depend on conference and convention business. That hasn’t come back. There’s nothing happening on that front.” As an example, he cited the UN General Assembly’s hybrid conference in Manhattan next month – which usually draws around 10,000 visitors but is only expecting 1,000 personal visitors this year. 

Aside from the campaign, Dandapani also highlighted that the real issue is the lack of international tourism. Virtually since the beginning of the pandemic, the CDC has banned travelers from Iran, China, Brazil, Britain, South Africa, India, Ireland and Europe’s Schengen area from entering the U.S. unless they are U.S. citizens or they spend 14 days before arrival in a country that is not on their prohibited list. This ban has crushed not only the city’s hotel industry but the country’s at large; according to the trade association Airlines for America, travel within the United States over the past week was down 14% while international travel remains down 40% compared to 2019 levels. 

These somber levels will undoubtedly change in the future, the question is when? An official from President Biden’s administration recently hinted that it was developing plans to require all international visitors to be vaccinated in order to enter the country. The plan would be part of a phased-approach system that will only go into effect once the current restrictions are lifted – which is where the uncertainty resides. Over the past couple days, White House officials have already stated that there is no plan to lift current restrictions in the near future, given the Delta variant’s spread, however other countries such as Britain and Canada have been easing their restrictions. With so many different restrictions and timetables on the table, it is impossible to predict when international visitors will be able to visit again, and the hotel industry will continue to suffer as we wait.

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