Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Economy effecting Harrah's, Old Salem

Not that this should surprise anyone, but one of the state's oldest tourist attractions and one of its newest are being severely impacted by the national economic crisis.

The Citizen-Times reports that Harrah's Casino in the mountains is "facing job cuts for the first time in its 11-year history."

The casino will reduce its work force this year by 5 percent, or about 100 jobs. The company is making the cuts voluntary at first, with offers of severance to workers based on years of service.Harrah's managers told employees about the plan in a meeting Monday.

General manager Darold Londo said in a statement the casino would turn to layoffs if the reduction isn't achieved voluntarily. He said the weak economy has meant fewer customers.

The casino has enjoyed steady growth since it opened in the fall of 1997, becoming one of the region's largest private employers, with about 1,800 workers. ...

In addition, the payments to the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, which owns the casino, were also down for the first time.

"The tribe's 13,500 members receive a check twice a year from casino profits. The last check of the year, issued Dec. 1, was $4,473 for each member, an 11 percent drop from June."

A little further east and north, Old Salem announced it will lay off workers and "change the way it tells its story to tourists," according to the News & Record of Greensboro.

The museum will trim its staff from 120 to 95 full-time workers and from 103 to 79 part-time workers through voluntary retirements and layoffs, said Lee French, the president of Old Salem Inc. ...

Some of the positions have been vacant for some time and will not be filled. A few full-time positions will be converted to part time. ...

Old Salem's management and its board of directors have worked on the plan for about six months, French said. ...

But laying people off and cutting costs can't be the end of the story, he said. Old Salem needs new ideas and new energy to attract visitors.

''I don't think you can just lay off and expect the world to get better," French said. ...

The museum is changing the way it does its tours, starting next Tuesday. Currently, people pay $21 for a one-day ticket that gives them admission to buildings in the village and a history of life there.

Under the reorganization, visitors would pay $21 for a two-day ticket. The history of the village in the 18th and 19th century would be presented on alternate days.

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