b'SEEKING JOB APPLICANTSSome in Campground Sector Left Short-Handed as COVID-19 Impacts Job MarketStaff members, like the ones pictured here from the VirginiaBeach KOA, are key to ensuring a park operates efficiently, butthe COVID crisis has limited some campground owners abilitiesto find enough employees.Campgrounds that rely on J-1 students, like the ones above, are unable to utilize Some parks, like the Palmer Gulch KOA pictured here, are stretched thin as theythem in 2020 due to the COVID crisis.work to ensure cabins and other amenities are cleaned properly. BY BEN QUIGGLE & JEFF CRIDER mately 16,000 full-time equivalent positions based on VCB statistics,The COVID-19 crisis has impacted a number of areas in the out- which spike during the summer months.door hospitality industry, including on the employment side, where But the Dells itself remains a tiny community with just over 5,500some owners are having difficulty finding workers or in some casesyear-round residents, which makes it impossible for campgroundsreplacing workers that can no longer enter the country.and other tourism businesses to find enough local high school andAt the North Texas Yogi Bears Jellystone Park Camp-Resort in college age students to fill summer job positions.Burleson, Texas, J-1 students international exchange students that As a result, many tourism businesses work through private agenciescome to both work and explore in the U.S.fill between 35 to 40 po- to employ J-1 students to cover their staffing needs during the summersitions on an annual basis. Due to the COVID-19 crisis those students months, including Yogi Bears Jellystone Park in the Wisconsin Dells,will not be available this year.which has been employing international exchange students everyThey typically help us out in areas like housekeeping, which we summer since 1983 to cover its staffing needs, said Brent Gasser, aare currently short on employees for, explained Steve Stafford, gen- second generation co-owner and operator of the park.eral manager of the park. That has meant that we are pulling employ- We couldnt findees from other areas where we can to help fill holes. enoughkidstofillThe Palmer Gulch Kampgrounds of America (KOA) near Mount ourjobshere,heRushmore in Hill City, S.D., is in the same boat. The park is currently said. down 15-20 people from where they normally are this time of year. Troubleis,evenHousekeeping is feeling the brunt of the loss.withhighunem-Our staff is great and we are down on the hotel side of our business, ployment as a resultso the silver lining is that we arent cleaning as many rooms as we nor- ofthepandemic,mally would be, noted Eric Johnson, vice presi- tourismbusinessesdent of Recreation Adventures Co., which owns inTheDellsarePalmer Gulch KOA. We still have a busy camp- struggling to fill po-ground and deluxe cabin business, so were able Brent Gasser family sitions.to just make it with the staff that we have. Basi- Weareshortcally, everyone whos willing is getting overtime to 8,000 employees in The Dells, Gasser said, adding that he has to op-keep us clean right now. erate with only 25 employees, which is just over a third of the size ofIn recent years, the Wisconsin Dells has at- his normal 65-member summer staff. tracted four million visitors a year who spend Thats an immense labor shortage, he added. All of us (in Themore than $1.6 billion on everything from food Dells) have done the best we can to provide services. I am massivelyEric Johnson andbeveragestowaterparkadmissionsto trying to hire as many people I can.overnight stays in hotels and campgrounds, according to statistics Gasser has dropped his housing costs and raised his wages by $2compiled by the Wisconsin Dells Visitor & Convention Bureau(VCB). an hour to entice more workers. Such massive tourism spending generates a lot of jobsapproxi- There are a lot of people that are looking for work, said Anthony14 -August 2020Woodalls Campground Management'