Hotel employees enjoy historic opportunities amid industry comeback

The Hotel and Lodging Industry Workforce

“I tell people all the time if you've ever thought about joining the industry, now's the time because the pay is better than it's ever been, the benefits are better than they’ve ever been and the opportunity is better than it's ever been.” - Chip Rogers, President & CEO, American Hotel & Lodging Association

This content is sponsored by AHLA.

2020 was the worst year on record for the hotel industry, and 2021 wasn’t much better. Over the two-year period, hotels lost a collective $111.8 billion in room revenue alone.

But after years of pandemic-related restrictions, the summer of “revenge travel” is upon us. Demand for travel is soaring, and experts predict that we could see record-levels of leisure travel this summer.

To prepare for this surge in demand, hotels across the country are on a hiring spree and making unprecedented investments in their workforce as they seek to attract and retain employees and serve their guests.

“Everybody’s in a better place than they were early in the pandemic and people see a light at the end of the tunnel,” said American Hotel & Lodging Association President & CEO Chip Rogers. “I tell people all the time if you’ve ever thought about joining the industry, now’s the time because the pay is better than it’s ever been, the benefits are better than they’ve ever been, and the opportunity is better than it’s ever been.”

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of May 2022 employment in the broader leisure and hospitality sector was down 1.35 million jobs, or 7.9%, compared to February 2020. The fact that hotels are looking to hire back many of those workers – in one of tightest labor markets in recent history – is creating never-before-seen levels of opportunity for hotel employees.

Nationwide, average hotel wages increased from $18.74 per hour before the pandemic to $22.05 per hour in March, an increase of nearly 18%. Over that same period, average wages of all U.S. occupations increased by just 11%.

But record-high pay rates aren’t the only tool hotels are using to attract talent. The industry is also offering workers more flexibility and opportunities for promotion than ever before.

“You can start today, and if you’re willing to work and educate yourself, you can be in a management-type role almost overnight,” Rogers said. “It happens rather quickly with very good pay and benefits.”

What’s more, the hotel industry has developed innovative, proactive programs to expand its talent pipeline and advance and upskill its workforce.

Prior to the pandemic, AHLA teamed up with the National Restaurant Association to create an apprenticeship program to identify young people who can have a career in hospitality and accelerate their movement up the ladder.

Apprenticeships are a proven solution for companies to recruit, train and retain highly skilled workers.

According to Rogers, the industry’s goal is to continually grow the pool of prospective hospitality workers and create good, lifelong jobs that power local economies.

“Before the pandemic, a lot of people probably didn’t really appreciate the impact that a hotel had on their community,” Rogers said.

Pre COVID-19, hotel guests spent $278 billion each year on transportation, dining and shopping, among other activities.

“For every $100 that someone spent on a hotel, they spent about $222 on other activities in and around that hotel during their trip,” Rogers said. “It’s an enormous economic incentive to get people to come to your city and stay in hotels.”

And the money hotel guests spend goes a long way. One in 25 American jobs was tied to hotels before the pandemic broke out, with employees either working directly for a hotel or for a company that provided goods or services to a hotel.

As travel ramps up across the nation, AHLA is taking the opportunity to showcase the economic and community benefits hotels provide in neighborhoods across the country.

The group recently announced the relaunch of its Hospitality is Working campaign to highlight the hotel industry’s commitment to investing in its workforce, protecting employees and guests, and supporting local communities across the country as more Americans begin to travel. It includes television and digital advertising as well as AHLA events around the country alongside local hoteliers, economic development organizations and community groups.

Learn more at

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