What’s the solution to the staffing crisis?

The hotel industry is having a staffing crisis and it does not seem to be getting any real attention. The number one challenge I keep hearing about from fellow hoteliers is that they cannot find team members to adequately staff their hotels and resorts. Resorts have been dealing with that issue for years due to their remote locations, and now it seems the whole industry is facing the same challenge.

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

I am hearing that some resorts are turning away business because they cannot properly staff their properties to handle it. A couple of examples: One luxury resort operator delayed the opening of a restaurant and a removed a portion of his room inventory until he could get seasonal staffing for almost 90 days. A new restaurant was forced to delay its grand opening by over 90 days as it could not staff the restaurant properly when the construction was completed. 

The properties not only lost revenue and profits but there also was a significant tax revenue loss to the local jurisdictions – which many people do not realize happens. 

While I keep hearing operators complaining about the lack of staffing, I am not reading or hearing about the magnitude of the staffing challenges in the media. While the following numbers are somewhat anecdotal from talking with colleagues, I believe they are very close to reality.  I am hearing that many remote resorts are operating with staff openings of 15% to 25% of total staff, while many hotels and non-remote resorts are operating from a low of 5% shortfall to many running a 15%-plus shortfall. 

This adds a real burden to existing staff. While many staff members are more than happy with overtime hours and pay for a short period of time, doing it over the long term leads to staff burnout and higher turnover, and thereby lower guest satisfaction. 

The U.S. H2Bs and J-1 visas now are capped at reduced numbers, and regular local employees are not applying in the numbers required to properly staff the hotels.

As I talk to colleagues, wages are rising but the wage increases are not drawing new team members – merely retaining some of the existing staff. Many hotels are changing their hiring practices to expand the labor pool such as allowing visible tattoos and piercings, and many are waiving pre-employment drug testing to get more candidates through the door. These solutions are helping staff the properties but do not solve the overall challenge. This seems to be an issue that everyone is talking about among themselves but not calling on elected officials to help alleviate the issue.

Are you facing a staffing challenge? What are you doing differently to staff your properties, and what can the industry due to change the staffing situation?    

If what I am hearing from colleagues is in fact reality, why is this not making more news? What can the industry do to combat the shortage? I’m curious to hear your thoughts.