Metro Detroit’s Hospitality Industry Employment Hits Record Highs Before COVID-19

Metro Detroit’s tourism and hospitality employment prior to the COVID-19 pandemic reached record levels in 2020 and it was ranked as one of the largest industries in the region and statewide, the Detroit Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau said today.

A study by the Workforce Intelligence Network (WIN) and commissioned by the DMCVB in February, found that before the pandemic hit, tourism and hospitality contributed 463,840 direct jobs to the metro Detroit economy. Additionally, another 23,000 indirect jobs were tied to hospitality.

In a normal year, tourism and hospitality make up about 25 percent of all metro Detroit employment.  Spending by those workers contribute approximately $79 million to state sales tax collections each year, $121 million in state income taxes and $6.5 million in fuel taxes.  Additionally, hospitality workers contribute $30.3 million to city of Detroit income taxes. The category of workers includes arts and culture, conference and events, entertainment, gaming, hotels, air travel, recreation, dining, event planning, casinos and more.

“Prior to the pandemic, hospitality was a major force in southeast Michigan and its restoration will be instrumental to the region’s comeback,” said Larry Alexander, president and CEO of the Detroit Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau. “For metro Detroit’s economy to recover, this industry has to recover.”

Alexander said that tourism employment hit its greatest low in decades during the recession of 2009 and 2010 but has surged ever since.  When COVID-19 hit, metro Detroit was enjoying its highest number of visitors at 19 million annually and enormous interest in its tourism product, which included over 100 new restaurants just in downtown, new boutique hotels and innovative attractions.  Since the 2009 recession, over 60,000 jobs had been recovered in hospitality, until March of this year.

The DMCVB is studying occupancy rates—a key measurement of a comeback—week over week to determine if tourism is rebounding.  As of May, 2020, occupancy was 43 percent year to date compared to 62 percent in 2019.

Alexander said that tourism recovery in metro Detroit will get underway when attractions are back on line and visitors feel that sanitation measures are in place in hotels, restaurants and attractions.  Already, some attractions have announced July re-opening dates.  Meetings and convention planners have also begin to reach out for future meetings in Detroit, generally for 2021 and beyond.

According to Melissa Sheldon, Director, Data and Workforce Project for WIN, employers seeking workers for occupations related to tourism and hospitality posted 4.5 percent more online job advertisements in May when compared to April 2020.

“Due to restrictions and stay-at-home orders, employer demand was low across most sectors in Michigan, especially in April, but the uptick in demand during the month of May is promising as we move toward economic recovery,” Sheldon said.

Sheldon also noted that May data for the metro Detroit area shows that while the economy overall has recovered 6.5 percent of total employment compared to April, retail trade and accommodation and food services both rebounded by about 12 percent. The small and extremely hard hit arts and entertainment group, though still at just over half of March employment, nearly doubled between April and May 2020.

Read the full report.

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