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'It's excitement. It's good' | Memphis area hotel managers hiring again as occupancy grows

Tourism experts estimate 75% of the region's peak 35,000 hospitality industry workers in 2020 were impacted by the pandemic by either furloughs or layoffs.

MEMPHIS, Tennessee — "I'm really excited to work with other people and network," Tayllor Polk said.

That's what brought Polk to a job fair Friday at the The Peabody Memphis, where around 60 jobs are again available.

"It represents more opportunity for people to get back in the swing of working," Polk said.

The job fair signified a rebounding Memphis hospitality industry, as Friday The Peabody's lobby looked livelier again and the ducks embraced more human company.

"It was a year that tested all of us," The Peabody Memphis General Manager Doug Browne said.

Browne said at the height of the pandemic, the hotel's peak staffing plummeted from 525 to only 58. Jobs at other hotels suffered similar fates last spring and summer, but the tide is turning. Hotel occupancy across Memphis was just more than 20% this past weekend compared to a month ago.

"I think we are all feeling the same thing," Browne said. "It's excitement. It's good."

More hotel guests returning means more hotel re-staffing, ahead of even more expected business into the late spring and summer as vaccinations increase.

"We are seeing a big pickup in leisure travel because there is a lot of pent up demand. People want to get out," Memphis Tourism President Kevin Kane said.

Kane said Friday hotel hiring needs also bring challenges.

"The stimulus, in some cases, is a disincentive for some people depending on what their pay rate, because at some point you can make more money staying at home than working," Kane said.

Those with Memphis' hospitality industry said they'll be focused on two upcoming holidays to see really how far the leisure market has changed as we get out of the COVID-19 pandemic. Those two dates: Memorial Day and Fourth of July weekend.

The Metropolitan Memphis Hotel & Lodging Association has added on its website a tool for hospitality managers seeking candidates and applicants seeking work. 

That link can be found on the organization's website: https://mmhla.com/.

MMHLA offers networking, events, speakers, luncheons and political advocacy for the Memphis, TN hotel and hospitality industry. Join today.