(This story accompanies another story about the lingering absence of office workers based in downtown Lancaster, as they continue to work remotely from home. That second story can be read here.)
The services offered by one of downtown’s biggest employers are hard to provide remotely.
Work done by employees of the Lancaster Marriott at Penn Square and the adjoining Lancaster County Convention Center, which operate together, generally has to be performed hands-on.
So the state mandates that affect the Marriott and convention center primarily deal with capacity limits, not “telework.”
That’s why the Marriott and convention center have brought back a much larger portion of their downtown workforce — which was laid off — than many of center-city’s office-based employers, whose workers were just relocated.
To date, the combined facility has brought back 150 of the 330 employees idled last March, when COVID-19 arrived and shredded its 350-employee payroll, said Josh Nowak, director of sales and marketing for the Marriott and convention center.
The recovery began last June, when state restrictions loosened partially and some weekend business returned. Gradually, restrictions have loosened further, leading to more business and a greater need for staff, Nowak explained.
Workers recalled to date are “predominantly” in its food and beverage departments, he said.
The Marriott/convention center will continue to recall workers as the volume of business grows, which Nowak expects to keep happening with the spring and summer leisure-travel seasons.
Longer range, he said, “There remains interest in face-to-face meetings, conferences and conventions in the second half of the year and beyond.”
In the meantime, the combined facility is putting a new emphasis on hosting competitions. New events being hosted this year include a bodybuilding competition in May. It’s also held more youth dance/cheer competitions than in years past, using time slots that became available when other events rescheduled.
That helps to make up some of the slack created when staples such as its annual youth volleyball tournament on the weekend of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday draw less than half their usual numbers, due to state limits.
For instance, before the pandemic, the tournament would draw 8,000 athletes, coaches and fans. This January’s tournament drew 3,000.
But Nowak is optimistic that the worst days of the pandemic are in the past.
“The easing of restrictions does potentially allow for events to grow participation and attendance as we move forward,” Nowak said.
“However, maximum capacity limits do remain in place with social distancing. We take the guidelines very seriously and considered them integral to the continued rebound of safe and successful events,” he said.