As the tourism industry bounces back from a slow 2020 amid the pandemic, popular destination spots in New England are struggling to find enough seasonal workers.
That’s why some businesses in the White Mountains are getting creative to appeal to college kids across the region.
Opening day is just weeks away for Santa’s Village, but the popular family theme park is still desperately searching for seasonal workers.
“This year we are still very concerned,” said Santa’s Helper Jim Miller. “We want to make sure we have enough people to keep everything open every day that we planned to be open.”
Janice Crawford, the head of the Mt. Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce, said, “We are really in dire straits for employees.”
Before the pandemic, she said, international students made up more than 50% of the seasonal workforce in the area. Now, with the J-1 visa program up in the air, businesses are struggling to fill positions.
“Our businesses have had to change their schedules for lack of employees,” Crawford said. “Our restaurants have gone to five days a week, not seven days a week.”
Making things more difficult is that there is very little affordable housing for temporary workers.
“COVID has created a huge demand on our properties,” Crawford said. “Lots of Massachusetts people are coming in and they are paying cash.
So this year, Santa’s Village is taking a creative approach to draw seasonal employees. It’s offering up lodging for free as an incentive to get college kids up here to work for the summer.
“I think some of them have been living at home, learning remotely for a year, so this will give them a chance to do something they missed out on,” Miller said.
He said the employees would be paid to work 40 hours a week, while their housing and utilities would be free.
With more than 200 million people expected to visit the White Mountains this season, the tourism industry is clearly bouncing back from COVID in a huge way. Now, local businesses just need enough employees to open their doors.
Santa’s Village is now accepting applications and so too are businesses across Mt. Washington Valley.