Hospitality industry in Gettysburg battles staffing shortages as business picks up

“We are definitely seeing an increase in visitation already this year and that’s very encouraging."

  • Julia Agos

(Gettysburg) – After a year of COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns and mitigation measures, the hospitality industry in the midstate is starting to see business pick up again. But in Gettysburg, which relies on tourism dollars, some bars, restaurants and hotels are dealing with a labor shortage.

Earlier this month, the Wolf Administration lifted some restrictions, allowing people to order alcohol without food and ending a curfew on serving drinks. Increased access to vaccines have led more people to travel or dine out.

But Donna White, senior director of Destination Gettysburg in Adams County, said many businesses are having trouble filling their staff — just as the tourist season around the Civil War battlefield starts to pick up.

She said the pandemic has exacerbated pre-existing issues with affordable housing, transportation, and low wages.

“In order to get affordable housing, you have to live in the outskirts of the County, which means you’re driving back and forth. Well, if they’re driving 25 miles a day and they’re only making minimum wage, that really causes an issue too,” she said.

According to data from Smith Travel Research, hotel occupancy for Adams County was 32.6% for January and February 2021. That compares to 42.4% occupancy for the first two months of 2020.

Despite with the nearly 24% drop, Karl Pietrzak, president and CEO of Destination Gettysburg, called those numbers promising. He expects business to really pick up in the fall.

“We are definitely seeing an increase in visitation already this year and that’s very encouraging. At the same time we are excited about that, (businesses) are met with concerns about staffing levels,” he said.

Pietrzak says those with a labor shortage may have to cut their hours of operation to prevent burnout among their workers.

Others are considering increasing salaries to make their positions more desirable, but that could lead to the cost being passed along to customers in the form of higher prices.

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