In a region known for vineyards and vegetable fields, only hospitality approaches the economic impact of agriculture.
Monterey County recorded $2.5 billion in travel spending last year. Visitors generated $264 million in state and local taxes that paid for city services and neighborhood projects. While that’s down from a $3.24 billion impact in 2019, before the pandemic disrupted travel and commerce, hospitality is bouncing back.
As the community recovers, a strong hospitality workforce matters more than ever.
“Agriculture and tourism are Monterey County’s two largest economic drivers. More than 24,000 people work in hospitality, and they make significant social and economic contributions to the community. Maintaining a healthy economy starts with supporting those employees,” says Big Sur River Inn General Manager Rick Aldinger, who chairs the MCHA Government Affairs Committee.
Professional career pathways
The Monterey County Hospitality Association (MCHA) represents, recognizes and supports the local hospitality workforce. While MCHA partners with other organizations on marketing and business initiatives, it is the only trade association focused on industry advocacy and education.
“We are a voice for Monterey County's hospitality industry. We work hard to advocate for policies that support employees of hotels, resorts, restaurants, attractions and related businesses,” Aldinger says.
To recognize the accomplishments of that workforce, MCHA hosts annual events like Employee Appreciation Day in June and the Hospitality Recognition Lunch. This year’s lunch and awards ceremony takes place on Wednesday, Nov. 9, at the Monterey Conference Center.
MCHA also supports hospitality employees through robust training and development programs. Each year, the organization holds events for guest-facing employees, managers, human resources professionals and others. Workshops touch on everything from communication skills to leadership to current industry trends.
These programs give small businesses timely information and structural support that they might not otherwise afford. The seminars also introduce hospitality professionals to tangible career tools and networking opportunities.
MCHA spotlights the career journeys of local professionals at mcha.net/training-development/career-pathways. The career pathways page shares scholarship information and resources for students and job seekers interested in tourism roles.
By working with California State University, Monterey Bay, Monterey Peninsula College, Rancho Cielo and high schools in Marina and Seaside, MCHA helps create pathways from the classroom to culinary and hospitality careers. The organization’s members meet with classes, host job-shadowing experiences, and connect students to real-world internships at places like Pebble Beach Resorts, Carmel Valley Ranch, the Monterey Bay Aquarium and Hyatt Regency Monterey.
Advocacy that adapts to today’s challenges
Since March 2020, MCHA has expanded its advocacy focus to help businesses navigate pandemic-related closures, regulations and recovery.
“At the height of the pandemic, we worked closely with local leaders. We wanted to ensure that any restrictions placed on business protected the health and safety of both employees and guests, while also allowing business to stay open to the greatest extent possible,” says Aldinger.
Supporting hospitality means regularly communicating with elected officials about issues impacting the industry. Through its Government Affairs Committee, MCHA initiates conversations about infrastructure, resource conservation, responsible growth and obstacles facing the workforce.
Housing is one challenge, for example. MCHA advocates for flexible planning regulations and ordinances that support affordable rentals, accessory dwelling units, and policies limiting the short-term rentals that intensify the region’s housing shortage. Building more housing also means securing a sustainable, reliable water source. That’s why MCHA supports desalination and the Monterey Peninsula Water Supply Project. Many of the organization’s member businesses have implemented wide-ranging water conservation measures, as well.
MCHA also participates in discussions about potential updates to busy roadways like Highway 156 and Highway 68, supporting projects that both enhance the visitor experience and resident traffic concerns. Like transportation, childcare is another challenge for hospitality and for all industries. The pandemic made access even more difficult. Supporting reliable, safe and affordable childcare is key to the region’s continued economic strength.
In addition to advocating for projects and policies that impact industry professionals, MCHA’s Government Affairs Committee meets with candidates and endorses those who are committed to supporting small business and promoting economic growth.
A more dynamic community for all
Monterey County’s natural beauty, cultural attractions and events make it a great place to visit — and an even better place to live. The visitors who spend their vacation dollars here help pay for the parks, libraries, infrastructure and services that benefit residents every day.
“Tourism supports restaurants, retailers and activities that we all enjoy. The industry’s success also means that more than 24,000 talented hospitality employees can shop here, live here and contribute to this community,” says Aldinger. “Supporting these professionals is one way to secure Monterey County’s long-term culturally vibrancy and economic success.”