|By Emily Roach, The Palm Beach Post,
Fla.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Oct. 10, 2012--Hoteliers Wednesday celebrated the best in the local hospitality business and a slowly improving economy.
Hotel Day is held annually by the Hotel & Lodging Association of Palm Beach County. It kicked off with a job fair, followed by the allied members' trade show and the yearly president's luncheon where the hotel of the year and employees of the year were announced.
As the economy slowly improves, hotels are seeing a better bottom line, said association representative David Semadeni.
Occupancy rates and bed tax revenues reported this week by the Tourist Development Council show a significant boost from this time last year. August occupancy rates rose to 59 percent, a boost of four percentage points from last year. Bed taxes, which are collected on each night of lodging in the county, rose to $1.4 million in August, up 2 percent over 2011.
Since the recession ended, tourism jobs have recovered faster statewide than most industries. However, many hotels continue to keep staff levels lean.
Anibal Perla of Palm Beach Gardens was at the Hotel Day job fair, and said competition is still fierce for jobs.
"It is difficult right now," said Perla, who has a part-time job but wants a full-time position. "There are jobs, but it's not easy to get a job, there are so many people unemployed."
The unemployment rate is 8.8 percent in Florida, though the state added 14,700 leisure and hospitality jobs in the past year, according to Department of Economic Opportunity.
On Wednesday, the association handed out scholarships, including two $1,000 Clifford Scholarships named after former Breakers General Manager Jack Clifford. And it gave some financial support to the three high school hospitality programs: Palm Beach Gardens High, Forest Hills High and Olympic Heights High.
The winners of highly anticipated industry awards were named.
The Colony Hotel Palm Beach and General Manager Roger Everingham won Hotel of the Year.
Employees of the year were: Michael Strickland, locker attendant at The Breakers, for guest services employee; Frederick Sivelsaint, general maintenance at Springhill Suites in Boca Raton, for support services employee.
Strickland, a 24-year employee, is the "major domo" of the men's locker room, who shows the same caring attitude to hotel guests as to the inner city youth he mentors and helps through a nonprofit organization he started, Semadeni said in announcing the award.
Sivelsaint has been at Springhill Suites seven years, and stopped both a fire and a flood in the past year, preventing substantial damage to the hotel.
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