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.
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.
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.