Highline College

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Hospitality takes a hit amid outbreak, but will bounce back

Although hospitality and tourism has been hugely affected by COVID-19, Justin Taillon says that people can look forward to it recovering in 2 years.

Izzy Anderson Staff Reporter May 07

While the hospitality and tourism field is currently suffering, it’s set to make a full recovery in a few years, said one hospitality specialist.

Due to COVID-19, the field is taking a huge hit, said Justin Taillon, Highline program manager for hotel and hospitality management.

The Hospitality and Tourism Management (HOST) program at Highline offers many different hospitality-oriented degrees and certificates. They specialize in hotel and resort operations, event management, cruise lines, food and beverage operations, and more.

A big amount of people involved in these specializations, are currently out of work.

“I think we’re up to 13 million in the US going on unemployment,” he said. “More than 15 percent are hospitality related.”

“Supply chains are the most worrisome thing right now,” Taillon said.

A lot of this is because of the nature of hospitality work.

“There aren't a lot of destination weddings happening right now, there isn’t a lot of eating in restaurants, no one’s staying in hotels,” Taillon said. “I’ve seen all my friends … out of work. Cancelling conferences, putting together think-tanks, trying to figure out how to work around this.”

“I think it's obvious to everyone … that we're definitely more impacted than any other business,” he said.

However, a plan is in the process for how hospitality will be re-integrated going forward.

“Everyone I've interviewed for the research I'm doing, they're talking about a reopening plan,” Taillon said. “We think we’re going to be back in that exact same rate … by 2022, that is where we hit even.”

It will take a lot of re-introducing programs and jobs at a slow and cautious rate though, he said.

“We’re going to come back slowly,” Taillon said. “They're going to bring back upper management around June 1, then they're going to begin hiring as they see fit for the front-line jobs for the summer.”

Through this steady integration, hospitality and tourism should eventually be at the same success rates as before.

“We do believe we’re going to come back to the exact same level we were at in February,” he said.

But for all this to work, a lot of higher-ups in the business may need to take on lower level positions.

“People who used to be at banquets, are going to be banquet servers,” he said. “Everyone is going to have to take a step down.”

Another hit hospitality will be taking soon, is the lack of customers over their often busiest season.

“In the summer, our hotels are packed. But no one wants to be here in October, November, December,” Taillon said. “Right when it looks like hiring… is to reopen, that’s our slowest season.”

Because of this, summer jobs in Seattle won’t be available until next year.

“We won't have jobs in this area at all, until the summer of 2021,” he said.

Until the hospitality and tourism field is back up on its feet, it will be a rough time for those in the industry, Taillon said.

“We do want to be realistic, that’s it going to hurt really badly for 2 years,” he said. “But on the bright side … we’re only looking 2 years out.”

Another aspect of hospitality affected, is the hospitality programs at Highline.

Hospitality at Highline is largely made up of international students - and many are staying in their home countries during this time.

“For my program, we rely so heavily on international travel student programs,” Taillon said.

“My favorite part of my program … is that every classroom I walk into, we're learning from each other, because we are so global,” he said. “I really don’t want to lose that environment.”

With the return of hospitality business, Taillon said that he hopes international students, a vital part of the hospitality and tourism programs, return as well.

“Hospitality always comes back, but will our classroom look a little different?” He asked. “I hope not.”