GVSU video helping hospitality, tourism industry overcome workforce shortage

The Department of Hospitality and Tourism Management hopes a video it conceived can help spur students toward an industry that was among the hardest hit during the lockdown stages of the pandemic.

The department partnered with the Detroit Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau and its VisitDetroit.com campaign to showcase the industry’s resiliency through the pandemic and focus on the tremendous growth awaiting it, said Patty Janes, professor of HTM marketing and research.

“We called the branding concept, ‘There’s Never Been a Better Time,’ because that’s how we feel,” said Janes. “It is true. There is no better time to be in this industry. It’s repurposed. It’s growing. People realize it’s more important to them than ever.”

Janes and Kristen Jack, HTM program director and assistant professor, were on hand with HTM students in Detroit for the video’s premiere during the Pure Michigan Governor’s Conference on Tourism in November. 

Students and professor pose for photo
Kristen Jack, program director and assistant professor of hospitality and tourism management, poses with HTM students during the Pure Michigan Governor's Conference on Tourism in Detroit in November.
Image credit - Courtesy Photo

The promotion drew widespread praise and gratitude from industry leaders in attendance and across the state. The HTM department also made the video available free of charge to Michigan’s tourism boards to help with their talent recruiting efforts. 

While the pandemic had varying effects on the state’s hospitality and tourism markets, no one is immune from the labor force shortage, said Dave Beachnau, senior vice president of sales, services and sports with the Detroit Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau.

“People at a young age are not understanding what opportunities exist in hospitality and tourism management,” said Beachnau. “That’s why it’s important to create this campaign to let students know that there are long-term career opportunities, and we can fill the pipeline for the future.”

The video’s genesis materialized from HTM faculty discussing ways to heighten the department’s brand and marketing strategies. At first, discussion focused on the department’s role in the Detroit market, said Janes. 

Then COVID-19 hit. 

As hotels, restaurants, attractions and venues tried everything to stay afloat, the HTM department recognized where it could help, talking with industry leaders in the metro Detroit region via focus groups, said Janes.

Family on a hike in park
Michigan's hospitality and tourism industry is gradually returning to pre-pandemic levels, though a workforce shortage is hindering its recovery.
Image credit - Kendra Stanley-Mills

She discovered one recurring theme among those leaders. Despite job fairs and wage increases, the lack of staffing was holding the industry back.

“Everybody had to revisit their business model and think about why and how we do things,” said Janes.

There are signs tourism visitor levels are bouncing back, said Jack, but there is still work to be done to fully return to pre-pandemic levels.

“The industry is getting better. The summer numbers looked fantastic,” said Jack. “A lot of the leisure market is fully back, but it’s the business traveler, it’s the meeting groups where hotels are still struggling. That business traveler is your bread-and-butter, Monday through Friday in a hotel. It’s getting everybody else back beyond that leisure market that I think is where the issue still is.”

The video is no panacea, but Janes and Jack hope it is a step in generating professional and economic interest in an industry still recovering from the pandemic.

“Ultimately, everyone will create a stronger, more resilient industry as a result of the pandemic experience,” said Janes.


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