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Retail, Hospitality and Tourism Headed Toward Recovery

By Caitlin Blockus

While many different industries and sectors bore the brunt of the impacts of the past year’s pandemic, few were as impacted as Retail, Hospitality and Tourism (RHT). As we look forward to a post-pandemic world, what will the future of these industries look like in our region?

On April 16th, Valley Vision, in partnership with the Los Rios Community College District, and in collaboration with Sierra College, Yuba Community College District and the Capital Region workforce boards, held a Regional Advisory on Retail, Hospitality, and Tourism occupations and careers. Regional Advisories provide forums for industry and employer representatives to discuss their current and expected skill needs with educators and workforce system stakeholders.  These advisories, funded by Strong Workforce Program, ensure community college and workforce training programs are responding to industry needs, preparing students and community members for the continuously evolving world of work.

The advisory began with Mike Testa, President and CEO of Visit Sacramento, providing an encouraging forecast.  He discussed multiple events and campaigns scheduled to draw visitors back to our region including Farm-to-Fork Festival, Tower Bridge Dinner, Ironman Triathlon, Aftershock Music Festival, and Junior Olympics in 2022.  The anticipated reopening of the Safe Credit Union Convention Center will also be a huge draw for visitors and conference attendees.  Visit Sacramento looks beyond simply boosting the economy, and providing jobs as the city reopens according to Testa, “At Visit Sacramento, internally we say that tourism isn’t about the tourist – it’s about driving revenue for the residents that live here. The money that comes in improves the lives of our residents.

Next up, Dr. Robert Eyler, President of Economic Forensics and Analytics, Inc., provided a look at the changing dynamics in these industries over the last year and projections for recovery.  Examining from a macro lens, he described how the hospitality industry in California displayed the most dramatic job loss, at nearly 30% loss of employment since March of 2020. While a handful of sub-sectors within the Retail industry profited during the pandemic, including e-commerce, retailers selling building or gardening materials, and food or beverage retailers, the majority of the industry suffered job losses from 2.6% to 18.6%. Dr. Eyler remarked that while the past year for the RHT sector has been grim, Summer 2021 hints at the beginning of recovery for restaurants and retail with travel picking up in 2022 and 2023, and full recovery (pre-COVID levels) expected by 2024 or 2025.

Several regional employers participated in the panel discussion including: Tim Stallings – Sacramento Republic Football Club; Bahar Abullarade – Raley’s Supermarkets; Alycia Harshfield – California Restaurant Foundation; Bobbin Mulvaney – Mulvaney’s Building & Loan Restaurant; and Lynn Mohrfeld – California Hotel and Lodging Association.  They shared the ways COVID-19 affected their businesses and delved into the types of skills and knowledge students and individuals interested in joining the RHT sector will need. The panelists unanimously agreed that emotional intelligence skills – often known as “soft skills” – were crucial indicating candidates who possess critical thinking skills, interpersonal skills, and the ability to effectively communicate are highly sought after. In the digital age of the pandemic, panelists explained that most of their workers quickly adapted to technological changes, but struggled when it came to effectively connecting with their clientele and fellow staff members. The employer panel also stressed the importance of team-building, working collaboratively, and the ability to work with diverse groups.

While the pandemic has brought with it a continuous wave of uncertainty, the promising projections from Mike Testa and Dr. Eyler, along with accounts of resiliency and adaptability from industry representatives, provided an encouraging picture of a sector headed toward recovery.  Even within an increasingly technological age, this advisory has shown the way to be successful in RHT occupations and careers is to embody key parts of the industry itself – forming connections, working together, and serving your community.

To keep up with Valley Vision’s work to advance a future-ready workforce in the Sacramento region, subscribe to our 21st Century Workforce email newsletter!


Caitlin Blockus is a Valley Vision Project Associate supporting initiatives within the 21st Century Workforce impact area.

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