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Hospitality Is Booming — but Workers Are in Short Supply

Hotels and other lodging options have never been more popular, from vacations to “staycations” — where people rent rooms in their own city for a weekend getaway. But the recent success in our industry has come with a catch. Many hotels are struggling to find enough people to fill the roles they need, and guest experiences are suffering as a result.

The Good News — a Thriving Industry

Part of the reason for the labor shortage is an increase in demand. People are traveling — and staying in hotels — at higher rates than ever. This may seem surprising in a world where hotels are competing with AirBnB, VRBO, and other unconventional lodging options, but it’s true.

The New York Times reports that in the last three years, “more than 2,270 new hotels, motels, inns and bed-and-breakfasts were added,” bringing the number of hospitality properties in the US to nearly 56,000. Not counting AirBnB and other short-term rentals, the number of rentable rooms is now roughly 5.3 million, and yet occupancy has never been higher.

The Bad News — a Major Labor Shortage

With more hotels and more guests to service comes the need for more staff — housekeeping, maintenance, wait staff, guest services, and other roles all directly scale with the number of guests in a hotel.

According to the same New York Times article, a 100-room hotel supports roughly 241 jobs — 137 of them employed directly by the hotel and 104 supported indirectly by the industry as a whole, like with suppliers and third parties.

The problem hotels are facing is finding people to fill all those roles. According to Rosanna Maietta, president of the American Hotel and Lodging Educational Foundation, there are more than one million unfilled jobs in the hospitality field as a whole.

A Reduction in Immigration

Nationwide, immigrants make up about 13 percent of the population, but they’re more than 30 percent of the hospitality workforce. Recent immigrants to the US, who might not have a college degree, a GED, or any particular set of trade skills can quickly pick up a hotel job — many hospitality roles include on-the-job training and offer ample opportunities for upskilling.

In recent years, however, increasingly aggressive immigration policies in the United States have led to a reduction in both legal and illegal immigration, reducing the pool of workers available — and hotels are feeling the pinch.

What You Can Do

The obvious answer is to hire more people, but that’s not very helpful advice if you’re simply not seeing applicants. Many hotels are starting to recruit apprentices for management and supervisor positions, offering college credit and financial aid, and training people between 16 and 24 to take over hotel positions.

The last thing you want is for your guest experience to suffer. Fewer staff means you’re ill-equipped to cover sudden surges in activity. You might encounter long lines at the front desk, rooms that aren’t ready to check into due to delays in housekeeping, lingering maintenance issues, and the reduction of services like on-site dining and pool hours. Some seasonal hotels are even closing their doors for more of the year due to an inability to staff them.

Work Smarter, Not Harder

When it comes to this problem, technology is on your side. Setting up your hotel with a VoIP PBX system from Phonesuite will allow your rooms to be interconnected in a way that analog systems simply can’t offer, freeing up your staff from performing repetitive tasks and allowing them to focus on the guest experience above all.

Some of the tasks that a digital PBX can help to take off your staff’s hands include:

  • Check-in and checkout — making guests who have already booked wait in line to confirm their credit card details and pick up a room key is a waste of their time and yours. Giving guests the ability to check in online or on their phones will streamline much of your front desk processes.
  • Wake-up calls — most guests simply use the alarm on their phones, but in the event that they want a reminder call for something, there’s no need for a human staff member to set that up. A phone tree integrated with your PBX system can set up and issue calls without any input from your staff.
  • Room service — taking room service orders can be extremely time-consuming, taking away from your staff’s ability to serve other guests. With a digital PBX, all room service orders can be placed through a phone tree. You can even set up a website for guests to order to their room via their mobile phones or laptops.
  • Housekeeping and maintenance — by integrating your hotel’s computer system with your guest’s phones, you can keep track of which rooms are occupied, which ones have just been vacated, and which need service. Guests can even set a “do not disturb” status with their phones, saving housekeeping time on visiting rooms that don’t need to be cleaned. This will also enable you to check guests into rooms that have recently been cleaned, eliminating their wait time.

A digital PBX system is also scalable, upgradable, and much easier to maintain than an analog system, saving your maintenance and IT teams time and money on upkeep. Interested in upgrading your hotel’s communication systems? Contact us today for a quote.