Left Holding the Bag

Where has that army of service workers that used to staff hotels gone?

I remember back in the day, I would have to go through this dance every time I checked into a hotel. It was with the bell staff. They were determined to carry my bag to my room and I was equally determined to carry it myself. Those were the days. Now that I’ve reached the age where I might be open to getting a little help carrying my bags, that squad of bellpeople that used to guard even mid-level hotels are nowhere to be seen. 

The staffing issues in the hotel industry aren’t a new problem, but the COVID-19 pandemic certainly exacerbated them. U.S. hotels lost more than 680,000 direct employees in one year from 2019 to 2020. Three years later, the industry has successfully added back more than 400,000 employees, but the workforce has still not fully recovered to pre-pandemic levels. In January 2024, more than 67.6% of respondents experienced staffing shortages, according to a survey of hoteliers conducted by The American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA).
Here’s a breakdown of some key reasons:

Lingering Effects of the Pandemic

Layoffs and Furloughs: Many hotels were forced to lay off or furlough staff during the pandemic downturn. These workers may have found jobs in other industries that are now seen as more stable.
Health and Safety Concerns: Some hospitality workers remain apprehensive about working in a high-interaction environment, especially with lingering COVID-19 variants.

Industry Challenges

Low Wages and Benefits: Hotel jobs are often known for lower wages and limited benefits compared to other industries. This can make it difficult to attract and retain qualified staff.
Unconventional Work Hours: Working nights, weekends, and holidays is common in the hotel industry, which can be a deterrent for potential employees seeking work-life balance.
Limited Growth Opportunities: Some hospitality staff may perceive limited career advancement opportunities within the industry, leading them to seek jobs with clearer career paths.

Shifting Worker Preferences

Increased Demand for Flexibility: The pandemic may have caused a general shift in worker priorities, with more people seeking jobs offering flexible hours or remote work options, which are typically not available in hotels.
Negative Perception of the Industry: The hospitality industry can sometimes be viewed as demanding and fast-paced, which might dissuade potential employees.

What are Hotels Doing About It?

Hotels are starting to implement various strategies to address these staffing issues:
Increased Wages and Benefits: Many hotels are offering higher wages, signing bonuses, and improved benefit packages to attract workers.
Improved Working Conditions: Some hotels are exploring more flexible scheduling options or additional paid time off to improve work-life balance for staff.
Investing in Training: Investing in training programs can help hotels attract new staff and develop existing talent, creating a more skilled workforce.
Promoting Career Paths: Highlighting internal promotion opportunities can incentivize staff to stay and grow within the hotel. 

Any thoughts, opinions, or news? Please share them with me at vince@meetingsevents.com.

Photo by Mantas Hesthaven on Unsplash

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