Virus Outbreak Seasonal Workers

Server Christopher Lee-Caron, of Provincetown, Mass., center left, prepares to carry plates of food to customers at Tin Pan Alley restaurant in April in Provincetown. Hotels, restaurants and other businesses are expected to continue to struggle as the economy attempts to recover from the pandemic. AP file photo

HARTFORD — Connecticut could lag behind most states in regaining hotel jobs lost during the coronavirus pandemic, according to projections by a national trade group.

The Washington, D.C.-based American Hotel and Lodging Association predicts the state will have regained a little less than 72% of its roughly 26,000 direct hotel industry jobs by year’s end. The projected 7,400 unfilled jobs is a more dire forecast than the group made in May, when it predicted a gap of about 5,900 jobs.

The group predicts only four states — Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts and New York — and the District of Columbia will regain smaller percentages than Connecticut by the end of 2021. It estimates the hotel industry will end 2021 down about 500,000 jobs compared to 2019 levels.

Direct hotel jobs include positions such as housekeeper and front desk attendant but don’t include jobs such as restaurant or retail workers or other small businesses supported by the hotel industry.

Experts say vacation and leisure travel in Connecticut has rebounded but business travel has lagged considerably. Business travelers account for roughly 60% of the hotel industry’s customer base.

“We are still facing incredible challenges,” Ginny Kozlowski, executive director of the Connecticut Hotel and Lodging Association, told the Hartford Courant, adding that the industry “is in serious trouble.”

Tourism promotion and the hospitality sector are expected to receive more than $60 million in aid through the state budget and federal relief funding, the newspaper reported. The state also is expected to roll out a new grant program early next year that will assist hotels and related businesses.

Kozlowski told the newspaper the hospitality industry could make an additional appeal this year or in early 2022 for more assistance.

More than 70% of Connecticut residents 12 and over have been vaccinated, one of the highest rates in the country. But the infection test positivity rate has crept up recently as the delta variant of the virus has spread.

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