b'COVID-Related Job Issues Continue in 2021 as Site Demand Grows and Finding Employees Remains Difficultn BY JEFF CRIDER camping) and a decrease in the ability students, but parks that traditionallyPrivate parks are facing another year to find staff. hire foreign college students during theof having to do more with lessmore Last year, many park operators com- summer months may still have troubleworkwithfeweremployeesorwork plained that generous unemployment recruiting all of the students they needcampers to do the jobs that need to be benefits at the outset of the pandemic this year since many U.S. embassies re-done. prompted many work campers to stay main closed overseas because of theRightnow,itskindofaperfect homeor in their RVrather than re- pandemic, said Brent Gasser, who co-storm, said Jeremy Welch, vice presi- port to work. Meanwhile, foreign ex- owns and operates the Yogi Bears Jelly-dent of human resources for Billings, change students, another key source of stoneParkCamp-Resort locationinMont.-based Kampgrounds of America campground labor during the summer Wisconsin Dells.Inc. (KOA). We have the (COVID-19) months, were prevented from traveling TheDells,whichmarketsitselfaspandemic ongoing, which drove a large to the U.S. because of the pandemic, as the waterpark capital of the world, tra- Providing better benefits and highersegment of the population out of the well as a freeze on student visa applica- ditionally relies on foreign college stu- salaries are ways to attract talent. workforce. But the pandemic also drove tions by the Trump administration. dent labor during the summer monthsan increase in demand for camping. So, TheBidenadministrationhasre- because there are not enough studentsyou have an increase in demand (for moved the visa restrictions on foreign availablelocallytofilltheestimated difficulties attracting enough employ-16,000 positions that need to be filled ees.each summer. Im projecting well be 40% short ofWe have 600 businesses competing our labor needs, Gasser said, addingforthesamelaborpoolandskills, that hell have to pay more money andGasser said, adding that The Dells itself offer more benefits to compete for col-only has a year-round population of just lege-aged employees during the peakover 5,500 residents. summer camping season.But while campgrounds and other Ouraveragewagelastyearwastourism-focusedbusinessesinThe around $11 or $12 an hour. Were in theDells were unable to tap foreign college $12 to $15 range this year, so $2 to $3 anstudents last year, they were able to re- hour more, he said, adding, We willcruit more American college students have to pay more and offer more bene-than usual. Gasser said his park also fits.managedtoearnroughlythesame Meanwhile,demandforworkgross revenue in 2020 that it did in 2019 campers across the country continueswith 75% less labor. to rise, according to Jody Duquette, ex-This year, Gasser anticipates an even ecutive director of Heber Springs, Ark.-stronger demand for camping, with ad- based Workamper News, noting that theHelping employees understand a path forward that matches vance reservations trending 26% ahead publications job listings during the firsttheir career goals can encourage them to stay on board. of last year and 10% ahead of 2019 fig- few months this year are higher thanures. But he also anticipates continuing 2019 figures, the last normal year before24 June 2021 Woodalls Campground Magazine'