Will the hospitality industry follow SXSW demand this year?

AUSTIN (KXAN) — South by Southwest is a week away from welcoming thousands to the city.

The event draws thousands of people from around the world to Austin, but it’s a big test for the area’s hospitality industry, as many face staffing shortages.

“Bars and restaurants, businesses… We are all looking for people at the same time. It’s definitely a labor market. Bonding with the real estate market pun,” said Vijay Patel of the Austin Hotel Association.

From the airport to the rental car then to the hotel; it takes an army of workers to run Austin’s SXSW. Vijay Patel, who owns and manages more than a dozen hotels in the Austin area, says the good news is that labor shortages have improved, especially as Austin has ventured into stage 2 of the COVID-19 guidelines.

“Are we there with our labor supply, absolutely not. Will we realize? Absolutely,” Patel said.

Front desk staff and senior management seem to be the most difficult positions for Patel to hire at his hotels.

” We are going to do it. Will it be to our liking? I would say we’ll be about 90% there,” Patel said.

SXSW organizers are also competing to find volunteers for the event.

“Although we had a slow start, improving conditions have led to more volunteers being signed up over the past two weeks. SXSW’s Event Staffing & Resources team has been busy with creative recruitment, including including everything from social media posts to street crew,” an SXSW spokesperson said.

SXSW says that although many positions have been filled, they are still looking for crew to work as ambassadors, in sessions and for registration processes.

To become a volunteer, go to Volunteer.sxsw.com and click on the “Register” button. In as little as 10 minutes you can register and have a schedule to volunteer.

CapMetro encourages SXSW attendees to use the MetroRail system, as additional bus routes outside the normal schedule will not be provided during the festival.

“The agency is focused on providing the best possible bus service on our regular schedule and no additional bus operators have been scheduled to avoid disrupting our normal bus operations. We look forward to welcoming our SXSW customers back and will have additional resources available to support our customers,” said a CapMetro spokesperson.

“I think everyone is going to be overwhelmed. Uber, Lyft and my service,” said Tony Brown, owner of Fast Cab Austin.

The anticipation is high for Brown. As demand increases over the coming week, he says customers can expect surcharges.

“We will go up. Our rates are generally $2.50 per mile, but we are going to increase to $3.00. We need to increase, especially with traffic and make it beneficial for drivers,” Brown said.

Fast Cab is always looking to recruit more drivers and dispatchers. Interested drivers can contact Tony at 737-217-7569 or email [email protected]

SXSW officially begins on March 11. KXAN looked at how vacation requests compare to this time in 2019 when SXSW was in town.

According to Expedia and Austin-based travel brand VRBO, there has been an almost 50% increase in demand for vacation rentals in the Austin area from the events of 2019.

Hotels.com is also reporting an increase in searches for hotels in Austin, which are up 35% from a week ago.

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