The Summer Work Travel Program: A Means to Fill Next Summer's Staffing Requirements

By Michael Wildes Partner , Wildes & Weinberg | November 07, 2010

With this summer's tourist season come and gone, it is time for all hoteliers to review the efficiency of their operations and determine if their staffing needs were properly met to ensure that the tourists of today will be satisfied customers of tomorrow.

If this summer's staff did not quite meet the grade, there is no reason to fret. Across the oceans, countless bright, motivated students are looking for an opportunity to spend their summer in the United States. At the same time, scores of proprietors are looking for temporary staff to assist with the daily operations throughout the busy vacation season. Fortunately for both parties, there is a program offered by the U.S. Department of State designed for the express purpose of bringing these two groups together, which may be the answer to human resource personnel summer hiring worries: The Summer Work Travel Program.

There are many advantages to hiring student workers under this plan. First, the students have already shown impressive initiative and the desire to work in the United States by simply enrolling in the program which will allow them to pursue their dream of traveling abroad! Second, they are content-and indeed required-to return home at the end of the busy season. Third, they have demonstrated the requisite English language skills which are needed in order to qualify. And most important, their visas and related immigration processes are predominately handled by an intermediary known as the sponsor agency, at little or no expense to the hotel hiring them.

How does this all work?

The U.S. Department of State endows the sponsor agency with the right to issue to eligible students, a Form DS 2019, Certificate of Eligibility for an Exchange Visitor (J-1 status). J-1 visa status is granted on a temporary, fixed-term basis, and provides a firsthand opportunity for young people abroad to have a summer experience in the United States. Beyond Summer Work Travel students, other common J-1 visa holders include au pairs, camp counselors, visiting scholars at American universities, interns, and trainees. Unlike foreign nationals arriving on visitors' visas, many J-1 holders are authorized to work in the United States, although their work authorization is only valid until the expiration of their temporary visa status. Summer Work Travel candidates may not seek to remain in their program for longer than four months.

A foreign national student interested in the Summer Work Travel program may find work in one of two ways: the student may look for a summer job on his/her own and find a sponsor agency willing to process the visa, or he may register with a sponsor agency directly and allow the sponsor to match him/her with a potential employer. In either scenario, there is little to no expense to the employer. The student is responsible for paying all fees related to the visa as well as any service charges to the sponsor agency. In turn, the sponsor agency is the party responsible for the student's immigration compliance. The employer-or "host company"-bears no responsibility for the international student beyond what is standard for all employees, irrespective of immigration status.

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Sales & Marketing: Selling Experiences

There are innumerable strategies that Hotel Sales and Marketing Directors employ to find, engage and entice guests to their property, and those strategies are constantly evolving. A breakthrough technology, pioneering platform, or even a simple algorithm update can cause new trends to emerge and upend the best laid plans. Sales and marketing departments must remain agile so they can adapt to the ever changing digital landscape. As an example, the popularity of virtual reality is on the rise, as 360 interactive technologies become more mainstream. Chatbots and artificial intelligence are also poised to become the next big things, as they take guest personalization to a whole new level. But one sales and marketing trend that is currently resulting in major benefits for hotels is experiential marketing - the effort to deliver an experience to potential guests. Mainly this is accomplished through the creative use of video and images, and by utilizing what has become known as User Generated Content. By sharing actual personal content (videos and pictures) from satisfied guests who have experienced the delights of a property, prospective guests can more easily imagine themselves having the same experience. Similarly, Hotel Generated Content is equally important. Hotels are more than beds and effective video presentations can tell a compelling story - a story about what makes the hotel appealing and unique. A video walk-through of rooms is essential, as are video tours in different areas of a hotel. The goal is to highlight what makes the property exceptional, but also to show real people having real fun - an experience that prospective guests can have too. The June Hotel Business Review will report on some of these issues and strategies, and examine how some sales and marketing professionals are integrating them into their operations.