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Will the Hospitality Industry Keep up With SXSW Demand This Year?

AUSTIN (KXAN) — South by Southwest is one week away from welcoming thousands of people into town.

The event brings thousands of people from all over the world into Austin, but it’s a big test for the area’s hospitality industry as many face staffing shortages.

Austin leaders recommend masks until after spring break, SXSW — here’s what a TMA doctor says

“The bars and restaurants, corporations… We’re all looking for people at the same time. It’s definitely a workers’ market. Tying into the pun of the real estate market,” said Vijay Patel, Austin hotel association.

From the airport to the rental car and then the hotel; it takes an army of workers to handle Austin’s SXSW. Vijay Patel, who owns and manages over a dozen hotels in the Austin area says the good news is labor shortages have gotten better, especially as Austin ventured into stage 2 of COVID-19 guidelines.

“Are we there with our labor supply, absolutely not. Will we make due? Absolutely,” said Patel.

Front lobby staff and upper management seem to be the hardest positions for Patel to hire at his hotels.

“We will get it done. Will it be to our liking? I’d say we’ll be about 90% there,” said Patel.

SXSW organizers are also competing for volunteers for the event.

“Although we had a slow start, improving conditions are leading to more volunteers signing up over the last couple of weeks. The Event Staffing & Resources team at SXSW has been busy with creative recruiting, including everything from social media posts to street teaming,” said a SXSW spokesperson.

SXSW says while many positions have been filled, they’re still looking for crews to work as ambassadors, in sessions and for registration processes.

No masks required: Austin-Travis County moves to Stage 2 COVID-19 guidelines

To volunteer, visit and click the “sign up” button. In as little as 10 minutes, you can register and have a schedule to volunteer. 

CapMetro is encouraging SXSW attendees to use the MetroRail system as additional bus routes outside of the normal schedule won’t be provided during the festival.

“The agency is focused on providing the best possible bus service on our regular schedule and no additional bus operators have been scheduled to avoid disrupting our normal bus operations.  We look forward to welcoming back our SXSW customers and will have additional staff resourced throughout to support our customers,” said a CapMetro Spokesperson.

“I think everybody is going to be swamped. Uber, Lyft and my service,” said Tony Brown, Owner of Fast Cab Austin.

Anticipation is high for Brown. As demand increases in the coming week he says customers can expect some surcharges.

“We’re going to go up. Our rates are usually $2.50 a mile, but we’re going to $3.00. We have to surge, especially with the traffic and to make it beneficial for the drivers,” said Brown.

Fast Cab is still looking to recruit more drivers and dispatchers. Drivers who are interested can reach out to Tony at 737-217-7569 or email

SXSW officially starts on March 11. KXAN looked into how vacation demands compare to this time in 2019 when SXSW was in town.

According to Expedia and Austin-based travel brand VRBO, there’s been a nearly 50% increase in demand for vacation rentals in the Austin area compared to events in 2019. is also reporting a surge in searches for Austin hotels which are up by 35% compared to one week ago.


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