Amber Davis knew a year ago that the coronavirus would dramatically affect the hospitality industry. Little did she know that it would push her from a job she loved to a completely different one.
Davis, who sold corporate retreats, wedding suite blocks, and other events for a waterfront hotel in Portland, attended a training seminar in Georgia just before the pandemic hit Maine in March last year. Another sales manager told her customers that they would request a postponement or a refund.
“We saw more and more every week,” said Davis, who lives in Winthrop. As one of the most recent hires, she was fired in May from what she described as “great work in a great hotel.”
According to the Maine Center for Economic Policy, the pandemic had already eliminated three out of five jobs in the hotel and leisure industry last April. From the start of the pandemic through September, the number of direct hotel jobs in Maine fell 62 percent to nearly 4,500, according to the American Hotel & Lodging Association.
The industry could be one of the pandemics hardest hit by the restructuring of the economy. Steve Hewins, executive director of the HospitalityMaine Education Foundation, is optimistic about the industry’s recovery, saying there is a pent-up demand for travel and leisure, much like after the 9/11 attacks and the great recession. But he worries that the industry will be able to hire people fast enough when tourism demand returns.
“We’re trying to restart an industry where a lot of people are on the sidelines,” he said.
Davis said the ongoing struggles in the hotel industry made her feel like finding a job was a bleak prospect. Like others during the pandemic, she switched jobs and is now a dispatcher in the Maine Department of Public Safety, a job a friend recommended. About half of US adults who are unemployed, on leave, or laid off and looking for work are considering changing fields or professions, according to a recent survey by the Pew Research Center.
One in four women is considering a career change. Around 20 percent are interested in science and technology, according to a national MetLife survey last fall. Around 58 percent of US women said the pandemic had a negative impact on their careers.
A questionnaire answered by 27 Bangor Daily News readers found that around two-thirds have a different job than they did before the pandemic. Job changes included a journalist who became an antique collector, a nonprofit worker who became a seafood wholesaler, and an advertiser who wanted to get into manufacturing.
Davis said she likes her new job. The pay is about the same, including overtime shipping, and it doesn’t have to be as hectic as it is in sales. It is similar to hospitality in that it can make a difference for other people. She doesn’t know if she will return to the hotel industry once she has fully recovered, which experts say could be 2023.
“The pandemic has helped me think about other things and gain new life experiences,” she said.
Shawn French, a Limerick-based video game writer and designer, has been working more after a layoff from his full-time job at an app and game development company. The layoff opened the door to freelance work.
His side appearances include editing comics like The Electric Black, a comic about a cursed antique shop by two Maineers. French returned to his full-time job about a month ago, where he is the lead author of the RPG Epic Tavern. But he kept the side appearances.
“I work harder now than I did before the pandemic,” he said. “I work on games Monday through Friday and comics on weekends.”