Despite incentives, hotels still experiencing staffing shortages

As nearly 80 percent of hotels experience staffing shortages, hoteliers are offering potential hires a host of incentives to fill vacancies, according to a new survey of hoteliers conducted by the American Hotel & Lodging Association.

Seventy-one percent of respondents are increasing wages, 64 percent are offering greater flexibility with hours, and 33 percent are expanding benefits—but 81 percent say they are still unable to fill open positions.

A full 79 percent of survey respondents indicate they are experiencing a staffing shortage, 22 percent severely so. The most critical staffing need is housekeeping, with 43 percent ranking it as their top hiring need.

The numbers are an improvement from September, when 87 percent of respondents to an AHLA survey said they were short staffed, 36 percent severely so, with 43 percent ranking housekeeping as their top hiring need at the time. 

Respondents are attempting to fill an average of seven positions per property, down from 10 vacancies per property in September.

Opportunities Knock

These staffing challenges are resulting in what AHLA calls "historic career opportunities" for hotel employees. As of December, national average hotel wages were at all-time highs of more than $23 per hour. Since the pandemic, average hotel wages have increased faster than average wages throughout the general economy. And hotel benefits and flexibility are better than ever.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, hotel employment is down by more than 250,000 jobs compared to February 2020. Hotels are looking to fill many of the jobs lost during the pandemic, including nearly 100,000 hotel jobs currently open across the nation, according to Indeed. 

In a survey of more than 180 hospitality businesses, New York-based flexible staffing company Instawork found that 52 percent of businesses expect to raise pay in order to attract and retain workers this year, and 73 percent of those who stated they’d increase pay already did so by $2 per hour or more in 2022. A full 63 percent of respondents said they expect revenue to rise by 10 percent or more.

To help hotels fill open jobs and raise awareness of the hotel industry’s more than 200 career pathways, the AHLA Foundation’s “A Place to Stay” multichannel advertising campaign is now active in 14 cities. Additionally, AHLA affiliate “Hospitality is Working” recently launched the Workforce & Immigration Initiative. The effort is aimed at urging Congress to address workforce shortages with bipartisan solutions to incorporate more immigrants into the American economy.

“Recruiting enough workers continues to be the top challenge for many hoteliers, and this is leading to historic career opportunities for hotel employees,” AHLA President and CEO Chip Rogers said in a statement. “AHLA and the AHLA Foundation are working tirelessly to grow the industry’s talent pipeline and retain workers through innovative events like National Hotel Employee Day and compelling ad campaigns like ‘A Place to Stay,’ but there is still more to be done. We need Congress to help address workforce shortages with bipartisan solutions to incorporate more immigrants into the American economy.”