Resilience in Rhode Island's Hospitality Industry: A Journey of Recovery, Community and Collaboration

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Dale J. Venturini
President/CEO, RI Hospitality Association

This year, in partnership with Salve Regina University, the RI Hospitality Association (RIHA) embarked on a comprehensive study to gauge the recovery of Rhode Island's hospitality and tourism sectors post-COVID. Overseen by distinguished faculty and industry experts, this student-led analysis scrutinized the intricate economic dynamics influencing Rhode Island’s resurgence, by county, given all of the complicated factors affecting it.

The findings were revealing, offering overall insights into the remarkable economic strides made since the pandemic struck. However, they also shed light on the lingering challenges that demand our time and attention as an industry.

Rhode Island's hospitality and tourism spending in 2022, adjusted to 2019 equivalent values, has demonstrated remarkable resilience, reaching 93% of pre-COVID levels. While a strong data point, it is crucial to note that this is a $550 million shortfall compared to 2019 figures, signifying the hurdles we continue to face.

With reduced corporate travel and increased major event revenues, sectors like lodging witnessed a surge in leisure travel, while food and beverage thrived through innovative services like increased delivery options and expanded outdoor dining experiences. Despite these pockets of success, several counties and specific sectors continue to grapple with revenue below pre-pandemic benchmarks. Some of this can be attributed to inflationary pressures, notably escalating energy costs and rising expenses for goods and services, which have further shaped the economic landscape, impacting industry operations and costs.

The employment landscape reflects a similar narrative of recovery coupled with persisting challenges. The loss of thousands of jobs during the pandemic inflicted a significant blow, and although we’ve reached 85% to 90% of 2019 employment figures, labor shortages persist, posing a continued hurdle to our recovery efforts.

The economic resurgence of Rhode Island's hospitality and tourism sectors is a testament to our industry's innovation and resilience and shows clearly that best practices were adapted across counties and peer-to-peer. RIHA remains committed to fostering a culture of community that not only sustains us but propels us forward. While competition is healthy and essential, camaraderie is equally as important – especially during challenging times.

At the core of the Association lies a set of principles that guide every action and initiative we undertake—a culture woven from the threads of the “Eight Cs”—cooperation, collaboration, communication, connection, curiosity, compassion, civility, and camaraderie. These principles form the very fabric of our industry, binding us together in a collective effort toward the common good.

RIHA is dedicated to facilitating collaboration, advocating for our industry's needs, and fostering partnerships that bolster our community. The events, meetings, seminars, training programs, and communication initiatives we undertake each year are designed to fortify this sense of unity and shared purpose.

As we chart our course ahead, we recognize the importance of adaptability, innovation, and collective action. We are poised to confront the challenges that lie ahead, continuing to champion the interests of our members and our industry as a whole.

As an industry leader, I extend my deepest gratitude to RIHA’s members, partners, and the wider community for their unfaltering support and resolute commitment to our industry. Together, we will continue to navigate the future, drawing strength from our shared values and the culture of community that defines us.

Thank you for being an integral part of our industry’s journey toward recovery, resilience, and continued success. We all have a lot to be proud of this year and I look forward to seeing what amazing things our industry achieves in 2024.