After one of the slowest seasons in Hampton Beach history, the popular destination spot on the New Hampshire Seacoast is gearing up for a blockbuster summer.
But now, businesses are desperately searching for enough seasonal workers to meet the demand.
More than 350 seasonal positions are usually filled in Hampton by international students — students who haven't been allowed in the U.S. since the coronavirus pandemic started.
One Romanian student can't wait to come back.
"Usually the people from the States, they call me, 'Dan the Man,'" said Daniel Man from his home in Romania.
Since 2015, Man has left Romania to spend summers working at Hampton Beach.
"Over there, it was the best experience I ever had, because I worked for awesome people," Man said.
But last year, COVID-19 put the J1 visa program on hold, keeping international students, like Man, from traveling to the U.S. for work.
"It was hard, I miss it," he said.
And local business owners miss those workers.
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Before the pandemic, David Hartnett says international students made up about three quarters of his staff at the Mainsail Motel and Cottages.
"It's disappointing for us, because we're not going to be able to give the same service level we have in the past," Hartnett said Thursday.
And as he prepares for a busy season, he's now desperately searching for local employees.
"This job normally pays $10 plus tips," he said. "We're paying as high as $15 to $20 an hour now just to incentivize people to come to work."
The search continues at the Old Salt Restaurant.
"We put an ad on Facebook, we put an ad on Craigslist, we put an ad on Indeed," said owner Joe Higgins.
Higgins says with a new patio space, he's expecting full capacity inside and out all summer long and needs at least 20 more employees to fill shifts.
"We're going to almost double our business in a couple months," Higgins said.
So while business owners keep looking for local help, "Dan the Man" has a message for his friends back in the states.
"I just heard that the embassy will open in Romania in a few days," Man said. "So wish me luck, because I want to be over there. I miss my friends, and hopefully everything is going to be alright this year."
Another local business owner says two of her international students just recently secured their J1 visas and will be coming to work for the summer.