County Tourism Director Melanie Pursel said what many people are thinking: this tourist season could be big — really big, as a public weary of going nowhere for much of the past year is ready to have some fun.
That’s good and bad. It’s good because almost every business that depends on some aspect of tourism to keep the doors open desperately needs the boost. It’s true that a few operations have done well throughout the pandemic, but most have suffered mightily from health-safety restrictions and an understandably skittish customer base.
More visitors means more jobs, more income and — the bad part — more headaches for employers who are scrambling to find the help they need to meet the increased demand for their products and services.
As we reported two weeks ago, the Ocean City Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association is working with The Maryland Center for Hospitality Training, while its members and others pursue other recruiting strategies as well.
One condition attached to the training center program, however, acknowledges that a big obstacle to accepting employment here is finding a place to live that won’t eat up an entire summer’s earnings.
The training center arrangement stipulates that employers must provide housing. That’s good, but what about all the others who can’t get that kind of guarantee?
As it is, many year-round employees who relocate here end up living in Salisbury or elsewhere inland because of the lack of affordable housing anywhere near the beach. That means seasonal workers coming here without a sponsor of some kind are often out of luck in their search for suitable accommodations.
No one can blame rental property owners for getting as much as they can for their units in the summer, since they have bills to pay as well. Still, the employee housing shortage is directly connected to the employee shortage and has to be addressed.