Las Vegas hotels hiring hundreds as travel confidence returns

As more people get vaccinated against COVID-19, many are starting to feel safe enough to start traveling again. The Las Vegas Strip is already seeing that demand and hotels are needing to hire more staff, and fast.

This time last year, all hotels were forced to shut down, turning the "city that never sleeps" into a sleepy ghost town. 

"Everything you're seeing around here right now was completely empty," said Randy Goldberg, vice president of talent acquisition strategy at MGM Resorts International. "As the pandemic kicked off, the properties were closed for over three months so it was a good amount of time that we were completely shut down, then as we started to reopen, that was a slow reopening with a lot of safety focus, and still a lot of government restrictions around what our occupancies could be, how many people could be in our casinos."

Las Vegas relies heavily on tourism. Travel restrictions and stay-at-home orders in place meant hundreds of employees were laid off throughout town, taking a toll on the local economy. 

"Well, in February we reached a peak last year (2020) and we fell off a cliff and by April (2020) we'd lost just tons of jobs and visitor volume was down. The hotel occupancy rate hit the floor, gaming revenue hit the floor, we had no more conventions coming to town, it was a disaster," said Stephen Miller, director at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas Center for Business and Economic Research.

Now that the vaccine is available, cases are going down and restrictions are being lifted, and that yearning for travel is higher than ever. Already this month almost 20 million people have passed through TSA checkpoints across the country from April 1-14. That same time last year only saw 1.4 million travelers. 

 "What we're experiencing today is obviously a big comeback, that pent-up demand. You can see individual travelers want to be here in Las Vegas," Goldberg said.

Economists say the city has a long way to go. Total visits to Las Vegas in February were still down by 53% according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. Although less than half of prior-year levels, February's visitor tally of approximately 1.54 million visitors showed an increase of 18.9% over Jan 2021. March statistics have not been released yet. 

"If you look at the occupancy rate it's really high on the weekends, really low on the weekdays and it averages out sort of mediocre, so we still have a long ways to go to come back," said Miller. "If the optimists are right, sometime in 2022 I think we'd be back to normal. My guess is, it'll probably be 2023, early part of 2023."

MGM Resorts International is one of the largest employers in town, operating 12 iconic hotels. As of December 31, 2020, they had about 60% of their normal workforce, that’s approximately 42,000 employees at their U.S. operations. Prior to the pandemic that count was around 70,000. 

Now they’re looking to fill hundreds of those vacancies, from front desk workers and cleaners to food servers and security officers. 

"We have job fairs scheduled every week. What's great about these job fairs is you can come in, you get to meet our hiring managers, and we'll offer you the job at the actual job fair," Goldberg said. "MGM offers a college opportunity program, it's something we're very proud of so any employee can choose to go back to school, get their associate's degree, get their bachelor's degree or graduate degree, and do so online that are with the Nevada educational institutions and do so for free. So, very important part of our philosophy at MGM is continuing to look at your growth, continuing to develop you."

It’s not just MGM, but almost all the hotels are hiring for dozens of positions. A quick search will bring up a list of in-person, virtual and drive-thru job fairs. Anyone interested can check out MGM's opportunities here. 

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