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Home in on hospitality job opportunities

Spot targets of opportunity in tourism

May. 28, 2013 - 04:04PM   |  
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If you live in central Florida, there’s a chance you’ll work for the Mouse — and that’s fine with Peter Banach.

“I spend a lot of time at Disney World with my 10-year-old son. We go there every weekend,” he said. “It’s an entertaining place.”

If all goes well, it could also be Banach’s place of employment. The former private first class in motor transport left the Marine Corps in January 2010, and is studying culinary arts at Florida Technical College in Kissimmee with an eye toward a future Disney job.

Banach aspires to join the vast local workforce of tourism and hospitality workers, which just makes sense.

Orlando, Las Vegas, and the cruise ships: Certain locales and accommodations form natural hubs for the leisure industry, a business that is steadily growing. The industry has added 983,000 jobs overall since a December 2009 low and is now 367,000 higher than its December 2007 peak. Total employment is 13.9 million.

A look at three major targets of opportunity:

Take a chance on Vegas

You’ve probably heard that Las Vegas has put its Sin City days behind it and become a family-friendly destination. Result: a booming tourist town.

“We are looking at job creation across the gamut,” said Jeremy Aguero, a principal at Las Vegas-based economic research firm Applied Analysis.

Unskilled labor is in high demand: Chefs, servers, kitchen help. But there is equal call for highly trained professionals with an interest in hospitality.

“As the industry has become more and more technologically advanced, there is a greater need for computer programmers, Web developers, GIS analysts,” Aguero said. “More and more operators are saying they cannot find skilled workers in some of those key fields.”

Will you find a job in Vegas? Consider this: “A hotel casino built today requires 5,000 workers. There are few other examples of that in the private sector, where you build a storefront and you need this kind of manpower,” Aguero said. Add to that $2 billion in development activity underway, and the opportunities seem extensive indeed.

The money? Las Vegas hospitality professionals made $44,683 on average in 2010. Those in the top 10 percent drew nearly $68,000 a year, according to Education News.

House of Mouse

The Disney properties may be the most expansive destinations in the Orlando area, but they are not the only show in town. Universal Studios, Sea World and a host of other attractions help create a strong market for hospitality talent.

Tourism creates 340,000 direct and indirect jobs, said Abraham Pizam, dean of the Rosen College of Hospitality Management at the University of Central Florida. Those jobs run the gamut of skills and specialties.

Those working “front of house,” as it is known, primarily will land and keep a job based on character. A friendly smile, a willingness to help: Treat the visitor like royalty and you’ll succeed as a server, a front desk worker or other customer-facing professional.

In the back of the house, some jobs run a close corollary to military professions.

“The bowels of a large hotel are almost like a ship, with all the big heaters and generators and A/C equipment. Anyone who has worked in an engine room would be perfectly suited for this kind of job,” Pizam said. “You have whole engineering departments that work with these things.”

Similarly, experience in logistics translates easily enough. “Imagine a nice hotel serving 4,000 or 5,000 people every day. There are all these logistics specialties that make it possible for all of that to happen,” he said.

But Pizam says the life of a hospitality professional ultimately is a far cry from the rough-and-tumble of life in uniform.

“It’s almost the antithesis of being in the armed services. You deal with people who are happy, people who are on vacation,” he said. “Some people will have to get used to that.”

Avast, ye gainful employment!

Remember back in February, when an engine room fire left a Carnival cruise ship adrift in the Gulf of Mexico with more than 4,200 people aboard? Food became scarce. Passengers sought meager shade in the absence of air conditioning.

OK, so cruising has its downside. Add sea sickness, long hours and a dislike of cramped spaces, and this industry clearly is not for everyone.

But cruising has its benefits, too. Traveling the world, meeting new people and enjoying free room and board, to name a few.

The industry also has a number of centralized recruiting portals, including allcruisejobs.com, cruiselinesjobs.com and cruisejobfinder.com.

Number-crunching site StatisticBrain.com puts cruise ship employment at 314,000 in this $37.85 billion industry. Others estimate the number closer to 350,000. The field is growing at 7.4 percent annually, totaling roughly 10 million passengers a year on the high seas. Cruising will add 26,000 new jobs in the next few years, according to CruiseShipJobsNetwork.com.

Dance instructors, DJs, photographers, naturalists and shore excursion managers: Jobs can be found in a wide variety of fields. Below decks, engineers, plumbers, safety officers and quartermasters can all find employment.

In some of the biggest tourist cities and aboard the world’s vast floating hotels, veterans seeking careers in hospitality can find not just a job, but a launching pad to better things.

“My goal is eventually to open up a restaurant, but it’s going to take time, and the only way to get there is to improve my skills,” Banach said. Working the local resort scene “will give me that experience to learn different techniques, different ways that things can be run.”

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