It’s no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic had dramatic impacts on our entire hospitality industry. Now that we are on the road to a strong recovery and the economy in Utah has “reopened,” Salt Lake is experiencing a huge resurgence in consumer spending on food and beverage services, experiences, and travel, in many instances towel above pre-pandemic levels. But Salt Lake’s full recovery is hindered by a workforce shortage in the hospitality industry.
With nearly 1,000 hospitality career openings in Utah, tourism industry leaders are working diligently to spread the word that a career in hospitality is a rewarding one, allowing for endless career track options, travel discounts, perks, job mobility around the world and flexible schedules. Job seekers may not realize that they can get a start with no experience needed, giving them endless opportunities to build new skills while providing them with a valuable purpose.
The travel and tourism economy is a vital economic engine for the state, representing the 8th largest industry and providing $1,238 in tax relief for each Salt Lake County household annually. Utah’s visitor economy generates $10.1 billion annually, and Salt Lake County’s visitor economy represents 46% of the state’s total.
Many who started their careers in the hospitality industry never imagined that their front-line “job” would become more than a paycheck. With a good attitude and a willingness to learn, anyone can develop skills in the hospitality industry that are transferable and key for success in any industry.
Working in the hospitality industry provides employees with flexibility and unlimited opportunities for career growth, mobility and recognition. On June 16, Visit Salt Lake recognized the stars of the tourism industry at the inaugural SALT Awards. These awards celebrated hospitality workers who exemplify Service, Accomplishment, Leadership and Tenacity, with categories for both front and back of the house in lodging and dining. A “Scenemaker” award was given for service in industries including attractions, venues, caterers and transportation providers, and an overall Spirit of Service Award was bestowed. This year’s sponsors included the Penthouse Suite Sponsor, Nicholas & Co. and the Presidential Suite sponsor, Modern Display.
“We’re so proud of our hospitality workers in Salt Lake County,” said Kaitlin Eskelson, president & CEO. “They’re on the front lines every day and really are the backbone of our visitor economy. This is a great way to honor our colleagues by celebrating their service to our community.”
SALT awards winners include Javier Robles, Grand America Banquet Manager, for “Dining - Behind the Scenes”; Ramon Morales, Market Street Grill Busser, for “Dining - Front & Center Award”; Maria (Lulu) Amador, Courtyard/Residence Inn Salt Lake City Airport Director of Housekeeping for “Lodging - Behind the Scenes”; Danielle Dahle, Residence Inn by Marriott Guest Services Agent, for “Lodging - Front & Center”; and The Overall Spirit of Service Award was bestowed upon Mirsada Fitozovic, Housekeeping Coordinator for Hilton Salt Lake City Center.
This talented and hard-working group of employees, along with their peers’, provide vital support for Salt Lake’s visitor economy. They were a major factor in the recovery of the hospitality industry.
It is an exciting time for the industry as it rethinks and reimagines itself with flexible options for staffing, operations, salaries, and delivery of services. The hospitality industry provides people with incredible career path opportunities and amazing perks. A career in hospitality can be a springboard for so many things – a platform to meet people, a way to travel, a path to a rewarding and successful career, and we’re here to help people meet their potential.
Career paths in hospitality are not always linear. Lavanya Mahate, Owner of Saffron Valley Indian restaurants is a great example. After launching her own line of spice blends at the Downtown Farmers Market, she took a leap of faith and opened Saffron Valley in 2011. It has now grown to five locations in Salt Lake. “My business stems from my passion for serving people through food,” said Mahate. She continues to mentor and build the hospitality community, receiving awards for her efforts.
To support employee growth in the hospitality industry and in recognition that a trained workforce is key to a healthy visitor economy, Visit Salt Lake launched a Salt Lake Career Connection online job portal to connect hospitality employers with potential new employees. It is designed to educate a new generation of career seekers that a career in hospitality can be a gateway to the world. The portal is a one-stop shop for career opportunities in Utah’s resilient travel and tourism sector.
The hospitality community in Utah works together to rebuild their significant contribution to Utah’s vibrant economy. By providing meaningful career paths, connection between employers and prospective employees is strengthened and the industry is poised for a strong comeback.
Director of Community and Economic Opportunity
Visit Salt Lake
Ms. Farley specializes in the development and execution of economic strategies for tourism and downtown business organizations. With Visit Salt Lake, she is working with lodging partners and elected officials to secure adequate funding to keep Salt Lake County top of mind for meetings and leisure visitors, ensuring our hospitality businesses have a well-trained & educated workforce, and elevating the message that Salt Lake County is inclusive and accessible for all our visitors. Ms. Farley earned a bachelor’s degree from California State University, Chico in Agriculture Business with a minor in Recreation Administration and did post-graduate studies of Communication with an emphasis in Travel and Tourism at California State University, Fullerton.