Meeting Mentor Magazine

June 2024

Just How Dire Is the Hotel Staffing Crunch?

When the name of the study is “The Great Labor Shortage of 2021,” you know the news is not surprisingly not good when it comes to hotel staffing during the pandemic. Even though bookings are on the rebound, with transient travelers first to return and meetings and events starting to come back online, hotels are staff-starved and hard-pressed to meet the growing demand. As far back as June this year, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that more than 1 million of the 8 million jobs available, but still unfilled, in the U.S. were in the hospitality and tourism sectors.

This is partly because, when hotels had to furlough or lay off workers due to the pandemic, many found other sources of income, including enhanced government unemployment assistance, and taking jobs in an unrelated industry that offered more stability, regular hours and better benefits. In the meantime, those left to work at hotels are finding themselves doing double-duty, risking burn-out if the trend continues indefinitely. No wonder we’re seeing more headlines like this one: Lately, Hotels Seem to Be Falling Short on the People Parts.

Hotel technology company Revinate took a deeper dive into the topic with its Great Labor Shortage global survey conducted in September 2021. Here’s what they found.

• 94.5% of hotels are struggling with recruiting at a time when staffing shortages are negatively affecting the guest experience. One hotelier is quoted in the report as saying, “The shortage has put extra pressure on our reservations, front office/bell, maintenance, housekeeping and conference services teams. We are operating at historically high occupancies and ADRs but with only 70-75% of our normal staffing levels.

• While the hospitality staffing shortage is a global challenge, it is most acute in Europe, where 100% of those surveyed said it was an issue, and least pronounced in Asian hotels, the survey found — though even in Asia, 85.7% said they were facing a staffing shortage. In North America, 97.4% of hoteliers said they were experiencing a staffing crunch.

• 60% of hoteliers say they’ve been dealing with a staffing shortage for at least six months. A little over a quarter say it’s been going on for three to six months, and just 12% say it’s been more short-term, just one to three months.

• Thirty-five percent of responding hotels said they are coping with the shortages by reducing occupancy and food and beverage capacity. Not surprisingly, more than a quarter said they’re seeing a sharp increase in guest complaints as service quality lowers and staff irritability rises due to the increased stress of overworking and multitasking — something almost 40% said they were seeing rise significantly.

• A lower quality of service is the biggest complaint hoteliers are hearing from guests, said 28% of respondents, though almost 16% said the guest experience hasn’t been affected much, if at all. Almost 26% said guests are experiencing longer wait time at the front desk, restaurants and with housekeeping. Almost 20% also were reducing or eliminating some amenities. As one respondent said, “Unfortunately, not all our guests understand that there is a national staffing shortage and are not happy that we are still unable to provide all the same services.”

Hotels are trying to alleviate the staffing shortages by offering increased pay, incentives and referral bonuses (27%), while another 28% are just shifting the extra burden to existing staffers — including managers and owners. Only 5% said they were using automation and technology to help improve performance and efficiency, the survey found.

The upshot for planners with meetings coming up before the staffing crunch eases — which may not be until late 2022, according to Yahoo Finances — is to communicate often with the hotel, since the situation is fluid and varies from region to region, on what service levels your guests, and your meetings, can expect. That way, you can manage attendee expectations as much as possible before they get on site, find creative workarounds, and hopefully provide the exceptional experience you, and your venue, are aiming for.

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About ConferenceDirect
ConferenceDirect is a global meetings solutions company offering site selection/contract negotiation, conference management, housing & registration services, mobile app technology and strategic meetings management solutions. It provides expertise to 4,400+ associations, corporations, and sporting authorities through our 400+ global associates.

About MeetingMentor
MeetingMentor, is a business journal for senior meeting planners that is distributed in print and digital editions to the clients, prospects, and associates of ConferenceDirect, which handles over 13,000 worldwide meetings, conventions, and incentives annually.

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