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Worker shortages could threaten plans of holiday merry makers visiting Disney World, other Central Florida destinations this season

According to the latest estimates, more than 109 million Americans–nearly one-third of the United States population–are traveling or will travel during the holiday season from Christmas Eve and Christmas Day through New Year’s Day, despite the uptick in numbers of coronavirus cases, spearheaded by the omicron variant of the virus.

Among Americans and United States destinations, the favored holiday travel and vacation spot this season is Central Florida, specifically the Walt Disney World Resort, Universal Studios Orlando, and Sea World Orlando.

But the U. S. workforce is woefully lacking this season as a labor shortage threatens to put a damper on travelers’ plans that include visiting a Central Florida theme park.

Some travelers are Florida residents, while others are visiting the Sunshine State from somewhere else in the country.

Alex Merisier of Miami and her sister-in-law headed north to Central Florida for a change of pace.

“Well, we wanted to do something fun for the holidays. We haven’t done anything fun during COVID, so we figured, now is the perfect time,” Merisier explained.

And while it’s good news that tourism and air travel are rebounding following closures across the country last year in response to the pandemic, a worker shortage stares that rebound right in the eye. Non-Disney family travel destinations and attractions are working to fill empty positions, and hotels in the Central Florida area are looking to hire front office employees and housekeepers.

Restaurants in the area face the struggle of attempting to hire sufficient staff for the demand of customers.

Recently, on December 13, the Walt Disney World Resort hosted a job fair at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort Convention Center. Disney World is in desperate need of new Cast Members to fill open culinary, housekeeping, custodial, and bus transportation roles.

Coronado Springs Resort at Disney World

Credit: Disney

The Walt Disney Company has been offering bonuses to employees hired in certain roles at Disney World, such as chef assistant positions. These roles have come with a $1,500 sign-on bonus. Other hard-to-fill positions at Disney World have been offered with $1,000 sign-on bonuses, and there has even been an incentive for current Cast Members to refer friends and family as referral bonuses have been available as well.

In Orlando and the surrounding area, there are more than 3,000 open positions at local restaurants, nearly 3,000 openings at local hotels, and almost 2,800 open spots at Central Florida theme park locations, according to Indeed.com.

RELATED: Florida sets record for second day in a row for highest number of new COVID cases in one day

The latest estimates state that in 2022, 1 in 13 jobs related to travel and vacationing will go unfulfilled in large communities like Orlando where tourism is a huge player in the economy.

cinderella castle disney world

Credit: Bloomberg

For now, travelers will have to practice patience as they navigate theme parks and other destinations in Central Florida as efforts are being made to hire more and more workers to help meet the needs of Guests at places like the Walt Disney World Resort.

About Becky Burkett

I'm an enthusiastic writer who finds joy in random things like cold weather, snow, "I Love Lucy," "The Andy Griffith Show," journals full of blank paper, countdowns to Christmas, the month of December, "Toy Story," "Sleeping Beauty," my 4 kids, my 4 shih tsus, Disney Parks history, Imagineering and visiting the parks. I think Walt Disney is the standard against which genius should be measured. I love to write about Disney Parks, Disney history, all things Imagineering and PIXAR. I adore the colors, story and art direction of Disney's "Sleeping Beauty" (Team Make it Blue!), and "Toy Story" is life (minus "Toy Story 4"). I believe Walt Disney was so much more than an entertainment and theme park tycoon; I believe he was a savant with a vision for life and how it could be if happiness and kindness are strived for. I love Biergarten at EPCOT and 1900 Park Fare at Disney's Grand Floridian. You can find me croonin' with the birdies at the Enchanted Tiki Room, chillin' on the PeopleMover or hangin' with Woody and the gang at Toy Story Land. I'm always looking for Imagineers in the parks, and I'd rather meet Joe Rohde and Tony Baxter than anyone in Hollywood! Hey, if you dream it, you really can do it!