Stand in the middle of any airport, and there’s one universal truth that hits hard: the travel industry is booming. Thanks to the culture of wanderlust now being a part of the American psyche, we’re seeing one big problem that those travel shows couldn’t predict: there’s a massive shortage of hotel workers.
According to Oxford Economics and the American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA), developers are building more than ever to the tune of more than almost 3K hotels, motels, bed-and-breakfasts, and the number is only expanding.
Recently, the New York Times reported that U.S. hotel stays jumped up to 5.3 million per year – that number shows a lot more folks traveling beyond visiting grandma a few hours away. Hotels are spiking their occupancy: sixty-six percent of the time, hotels are booked more than than they were last year. But the fact reasons, there aren’t enough workers and the hotel experience is suffering.
The industry knows the hard truth: Lines are long and people are heading down to the bar for a cold beer after traveling only to see a bartender who’s in the weeds or the bar isn’t open at all because there’s no one on staff to work it.
The industry is starting to lose its grip on essential services, the things that make people want to stay with a certain property. Whether that’s top-notch amenities or they love the restaurant’s grilled cheese and truffle fries, hotels can’t afford to lose guests, not with the current boom that’s transforming the industry. With so many people traveling right now, not addressing staffing is leaving money on the table.
Demand, demand, demand
The demand for hotels is at an all-time high and the labor market servicing the hospitality sector isn’t dismal, it’s flat out ugly.
More than ever, people are ordering room service, but they’re also waiting for it much longer, too. There are always rooms that need to be cleaned, but instead of having a team of workers ready to go 24/7, the industry is limping along.
So, how did we get here? Economics, it turns out.
Because of the active labor market, unemployment is low. When it comes to the hotel industry, there are over 1 million unfilled jobs, which leaves pools unattended, and kitchens working at a far slower capacity. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics stated that the hospitality sector had only around 300K open jobs back in 2009. In a decade, that’s a huge jump.
These numbers are problematic because what often sells at a hotel isn’t just location, but the amenities. For luxury brands, the extras, the little things like massage parlors, golf courses, and in some cases, casinos, all require a staff. The commitment to service levels is making the upkeep, reservation process, and food programs hard to maintain at a certain level.
A significant change in market dynamics
Thanks to the hiring woes of the market, hotels historically turned to traditional staffing agencies, but put up against the break neck speed of 2019, moving into the new year, those avenues just can’t keep up.
A manager of a large hotel chain who wished to remain anonymous told us, “I always ask for more workers than I need. I never know who I’m going to get, if they show up drunk, if they can even do the job. If I get a few good ones, there’s plenty of work. I don’t bother training them. I ask what are you good at, what experience do you have? Then I utilize them in that capacity. The model is awful. I hate it.”
With workers not being vetted, the hotelier has no idea what quality they’re getting, which can make things worse. Finding the right people has to make sense, because spending the manpower to double-check work is a major time suck. The time it takes to fill the roles, get people there, figure out if they’re actually any good, it’s all wasted energy. With a million open jobs out there, it’s an unsustainable business practice.
Creative solutions for 2020 and forward
What can the hospitality industry do to challenge the status quo, to combat the pitfalls of the market? There are a few things, actually. Some companies are working toward streamlining processes by setting up self-service stations for check-in while someone hangs around the lobby with an iPad making sure guest needs are met.
The big secret weapon that’s bailing the hotel industry out is utilizing on-demand staffing. Ready for a better way to staff?
We’re Adia, the on-demand staffing platform for hospitality. We give you full visibility into your workforce 24/7, and access to a worker pool 10x bigger than your agency’s. No contracts, no middleman, no red tape. Just workers that actually show up.
If you’re a hotel manager stuck in a rut, Adia has your back. We’ve got vetted hourly workers ready to go to support your staff both in the long-term and short-term. We’re here to help.