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Tourism could take years to bounce back, where will hospitality workers go?

"Our people that work in restaurants and conventions and such, are better than anybody in the world."

NEW ORLEANS — If you’re looking for work during what economists believe will be a deep recession, where do you start your search?  

The answer to that questions gets more complicated in New Orleans, where so many people depend on the tourism industry.  

We saw the economic pain at a food distribution by Second Harvest Food Bank this week. We met Michael Cain at the Notre Dame Seminary off Carrollton Avenue. He was carrying a box of goods, but actually gave back some items.  

“I’d rather have someone else get use out of the food that I’m not going to be able to eat, but this will be a considerable help,” Cain said referring to the box in his hand.    

Cain is an artist who has relied on Jazz Fest to sell his work.

“That’s gone for a year and I don’t know how to replace it,” Cain said.  
The unemployment rate in New Orleans is a staggering 25%.  

“If you’re in that situation, you might want to look at this as an opportunity to pivot,” Peter Ricchiuti said.    

Ricchiuti is a finance professor at Tulane University.  He says the coronavirus’ impact on the local economy will be uniquely deep because it wasn’t very diversified before the pandemic. Ricchiuti says that limits the viable jobs moving forward.  

RELATED: Track COVID-19: Louisiana Coronavirus Outbreak Map

“If you’re only opening up 25% of your restaurants and every other store has decided to open up its bricks and mortar, you’re going to have way more candidates than you’re going to have openings,” Ricchiuti said.  

It’s going to take an estimated three-to-four years for the tourism industry to recover. That’s a major concern for the thousands of people who depend on it to make a living.

“That’s where the money is, so it actually makes me concerned, you’re concerned because without a strong tourism industry a lot of people won’t make it,” said Erica Williams.    

Williams has worked in the French Quarter for 10 years. She realizes jobs there may take a long time to come back, that’s why she’s trying to revive her previous career as a cosmetologist.  

“I’m actually working on building that back up and building my clientele back up,” Williams said.  

Professor Ricchiuti says technology, healthcare and manufacturing have emerged as stable sectors during the pandemic, and those would be good places to start a job search.  He also says job seekers may have to be willing to take on a new line of work.  

“People don’t recognize the skills they have in hospitality can be used in a number of different ways.  Our people that work in restaurants and conventions and such, are better than anybody in the world,” Ricchiuti said.  

With the growth of virtual meetings and home offices, the concept of work is changing.  Ricchiuti says to survive, we must adapt to those changes.

RELATED: Fed Chair: Recovery may begin by summer, will likely be slow

RELATED: New Orleans Business Alliance program pays hospitality workers to work at local food banks

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