"We're having a hard time filling lower-paying jobs like housekeeper
and groundskeeper, which are vital to our operation," says Richelle
Kruse, owner of Kruse's Pinewood Lodge in Rhinelander, Wis., and
another resort in nearby St. Germain. "We're paying up to $10 per
hour, but still have trouble finding people. The public perception
is that this is a demeaning job."
That is a misperception, says Donald Holecek, director of the
Travel, Tourism and Recreation Resource Center at Michigan State
University in East Lansing. "Travel and tourism is the world's largest
employer and the wages overall are above minimum." But Holecek adds
that entry-level jobs are generally the most visible.
Dean Runyan, principal of Dean Runyan Associates, Portland, Ore.,
an economic and marketing research firm working primarily in the
travel industry, agrees. "The travel industry gets a bad rap partly
because of low-skilled entry-level jobs," he says. "3M is good and
Hilton is bad," is the perception, Runyan says. And while it may
be true that 3M engineers earn more than Hilton housekeepers, Hilton
and other travel businesses have lots of jobs for young people,
women and minorities, Runyan adds. Most of those employees move
on after some time, Runyan says, to more skilled positions in other
industries or in better travel jobs. "The travel industry serves
as a place in the American economy where there are entry-level jobs,"
Runyan says, "and the opportunities are good for the young and unskilled."
Tourism's share of jobs in Ninth District states ranks high: from
14 percent of Montana jobs tied to tourism, placing the state third
nationally, to Wisconsin with 9.3 percent of the state's jobs tourism
related. In addition, the number of tourism jobs has grown above
the national average over the past six years: In Montana tourism
jobs grew by 5.5 percent, more than double the national average.
The jobs are there, but with unemployment in district states below
the national average, filling those jobs is becoming increasingly
difficult, especially in the service industries.
Gary Brown, president of the Best Western Town 'n Country Inn in Rapid
City, S.D., says that a lot of tourism workers are looking for a secondary
income or they're single parents. "So the question is what else can you
offer besides high wages?" Brown suggests that medical benefits, day care
and flexible schedules make the jobs more desirable.
William Gartner, professor and director of the University of Minnesota
Tourism Center, agrees that benefits have to be offered, and suggests
that small tourism operators can make these benefits affordable
by forming associations to take advantage of group rates.
"I'm more concerned with skill levels. We can get around the problem
of enough bodies," Gartner adds. Post-secondary education opportunities
in travel and tourism are limited in the Ninth District, Holecek
The 1995 White House conference addressed education and training,
with emphasis on the projected demand for new jobs, the changing
job market and the importance of maintaining and improving the quality
of service. Issue papers recommended creating an electronic catalog
of federal government-sponsored, tourism-related training materials
and encouraging national tourism associations and organizations
to establish accredited tourism-related continuing education programs.
But Tom Nemacheck, director of the Upper Peninsula Travel and
Recreation Association in Iron Mountain, Mich., isn't sure what
the impact of more training opportunities might be. "We haven't
seen small tourism operators willing to pay more if employees come
with a degree," Nemacheck says. People who do have degrees will
go to a larger operation where they can grow into other jobs. "There
are more entry-level jobs in tourism, and they will always be a
feeder to other jobs or as seasonal work," Nemacheck adds. There's
no mix of employment in some communities to draw from, and a lot
of employers don't want to pay the wages needed to draw workers,
Nemacheck says. They want to keep labor costs low. At the same time,
Nemacheck says, it's difficult to get people to stay when fast food
chain restaurants pay $7.50 an hour in the cities while rural operations
pay only $4.50. He adds that a U.P. ski resort that wanted to turn
into a year-round attraction couldn't get the workers.
Wisconsin hopes to give more credence to tourism jobs through
the Wisconsin Tourism Youth Apprenticeship Program that pairs high
school juniors and seniors with tourism businesses to help students
plan a career in the industry. The program was implemented in fall
1996 as part of Wisconsin's School to Work Transition Initiative.