• Thu. Sep 22nd, 2022

Niagara Falls struggles to recruit staff in hospitality industry as competition from Amazon looms

ByStephanie M. Akbar

Jun 22, 2022

Niagara Falls’ dominant hospitality industry is an economic segment with approximately 15,000 workers. It’s basically the whole economy of the city, as most of the industries are gone.

He is currently facing serious problems and may encounter more in the future.

Each fall, about 5,000 workers are laid off while another 5,000 quit for other jobs or to go to school. That leaves only about 5,000 to keep business going for the long winter.

Niagara Global Tourism Institute associate director Roscoe Naguit said the layoffs are pushing people into other jobs closer to the year.

“It’s difficult to be able to maintain this level,” he said. “They’re going to hire you in the spring and fire you in the fall. Even before COVID, this cycle, people just aren’t coming back.

And World Tourism Institute director Patrick Whalen said the city’s hospitality industry will soon face an unexpected adversary, which could offer year-round jobs at similar rates.

Amazon’s new complex in the city of Niagara received nearly final construction approval on Tuesday. It should take less than two years to complete.

Amazon announced last year it raised starting wages for transport and fulfillment jobs to $18 an hour.

Whalen said hospitality workers will have to choose between working at an $18-an-hour hotel for six months of the year or working at an $18-an-hour Amazon warehouse year-round.

“They’re going to Amazon,” he said

The roughly 5,000 employees laid off each fall also need to be considered, Whalen said, noting that this is a social justice issue. According United States Census Bureau statistics23% of the city lives below the poverty line.

“We have 5,000 people here who live in poverty in the city because they cannot work all year round in the city and are willing to do so,” he said.

Just about every mayor in recent decades has suggested solutions to the problem.

The current mayor, Robert Restaino, wants a new convention center to replace the old center, which has become the Seneca Niagara Resort & Casino. Besides the center home run, Restaino also wants a few singles.

“Shuttle Discovery allows us to move people around the county, something that didn’t exist when we had the old convention center,” he said. “So all of these forward-thinking, forward-looking opportunities come together to try to create a better environment for our customers, but more importantly for our residents.

There is a steady stream of trainees from the Niagara Falls Culinary Institute in the heart of the tourist area.

Josh Blumberg is the assistant vice president of academic affairs at Niagara County Community College, which runs the culinary institute and takes worker call requests.

“My teachers all get the same phone calls, the same emails. We get calls not only from restaurants and hotels and your typical places that are looking, but also from various outlets that aren’t even quite hospitality related,” he said. “The butchers are calling us.

Blumberg expects to have perhaps 220 students in training this fall.

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