Shawn Wright| Crain’s Detroit Business

Michigan’s hospitality industry finished 2013 at the highest it’s been in decades, with expectations remaining elevated for this year.

In addition, the state’s retail sector should see continued, albeit slow, improvement.

“When the economy went south in 2008 and early 2009, Detroit’s hotel occupancy rates were running about 48 percent. You can’t make money in a hotel at 48 percent,” said Mike Callaghan, executive vice president and COO at the Detroit Metro Convention and Visitors Bureau.

“This past year, hotels in Detroit will finish around 63 percent, up a point where they finished in 2012 … and their average room rates are increasing. And that’s not just Detroit, but also statewide.”

What it equates to is employment in the hospitality sector is the highest its ever been, he said. Opportunities across the board, from those working in kitchens, as housekeepers and maintenance people to those in administrative positions such as general managers or directors of sales, will be available.

“All of those kinds of positions are going to increase,” Callaghan said. “The limited service hotels, with housekeepers and front desk clerks, will have those kinds of jobs that this market needs to fill.”

Callaghan said these positions can lead to upward mobility within the industry. He speaks from experience, having started in college as a front desk clerk. Ultimately, it grew into general manager positions before eventually ending up at the Convention and Visitors Bureau.

“The industry itself can provide a great lifestyle for people,” he said. “Those kinds opportunities are going to become available.”

Leisure and hospitality jobs have increased from 386,300 to 394,600 statewide between November 2012 and November 2013, according to the data from Michigan’s department of technology, management and budget.

In regards to Michigan’s retail sector, Tom Scott, senior vice president of marketing and communications for the Michigan Retailer’s Association, expects sales and jobs will improve throughout the year.

“That’s just a reflection of an improvement in the economy,” Scott said. “With the number of jobs growing and personal income, it should relate to increased retail sales. It will probably not be spectacular, but every year since the recession we have seen slow and steady improvement.”

The retail job increases will most likely come from more stores and restaurants opening, but not so much from existing businesses adding employees. Primarily, Scott said, it will come from new enterprises.

“A lot of what we’ve been seeing is your basic retail jobs,” he said. “They tend to be the retail associates, clerks and stock people, among others.”

For Callaghan, the total picture between both sectors is a positive one.

“It’s good to be able to report good news,” he said. “For many years there, it was doom and gloom.”

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