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Can the hospitality industry recover? (by Lex Fuller)

Over the past two years, the hospitality industry has had to make major changes to deal with the many difficulties it has faced due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The most notable hurdle for the hospitality industry has been the labor shortage. With the dangers of COVID-19, it has been increasingly difficult for hotels to find and keep employees, causing the hospitality industry to make adjustments in order to compensate for the loss of on-sight workers. This leaves us with the following question, will the hospitality industry ever go back to the way it was before the pandemic?

While things are opening back up after a long battle with Covid-19, the hospitality industry is still struggling to find and keep employees. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2020), the amount of leisure and hospitality workers pre-pandemic was roughly 16.2 million employees in March 2020. A month later, the number of all employees dropped to 8.7 million, nearly half of what it was before. Currently, hospitality companies, including restaurants and bars, are trying to find solutions to the massive labor shortage challenge.

During the pandemic, new ways of performing jobs were embraced which allowed employees to better adapt to a new lifestyle. Remote working, working from home, has allowed employees to participate in a different type of employment where they do not have to commute. In the given field of the hospitality industry, this type of work has increased but unfortunately can lead to problems. One problem that has arisen from remote working is more people have found that they were practically living at work. Remote working has revealed new lifestyles and methods of finding the ideal work/life balance. An Annual Work Trend Index Report conducted by Microsoft states that “41% of the global workforce is likely to consider leaving their current employer within the next year.” While this is great for employees, employers in the hospitality industry have difficulty dealing with this drastic change in behavior. Constant training of new employees can be costly as well and ultimately very inconsistent for a hospitality operation. 

Currently, the hospitality industry has increased the number of jobs available to job-seeking workers. As of March 2022, nearly two years after the pandemic started, the number of all employees in the leisure and hospitality industry is now 15.5 million workers. Although the amount of leisure and hospitality employees has increased since the employment low of 8.7 million at the beginning of the pandemic, the industry is facing a shortage of people that want to work in person. The CEO of InterContinental Hotels Group, Keith Bar, stated at an NYU International Hospitality Industry Investment Conference, “We’re all seeing our customer satisfaction scores in this industry, across the board, go down. We have to get people back into the workforce. Fundamentally, we just don’t have enough people in the workforce.”

The hotel industry specifically struggles with not having enough employees. Before the pandemic, having more employees made it easier for hotels to maintain the customer service that guests desire. Now, hotels have to do the same with fewer employees, thus making it very difficult for workers and guests to both stay satisfied. I myself have experienced working in a hotel before and after the pandemic. I was employed at Hilton’s Curio Collection, Hotel La Jolla in San Diego, California as a front desk agent. Working there before the pandemic, I have learned a lot about the hospitality industry. Going from having 148 employees on-site pre-pandemic, to having 28 employees changed my view on the hotel industry. During this time, the adoption of “e-check in” and the lack of employees made it very difficult for us to deal with customer satisfaction. People would often leave very poor reviews blaming the front desk for issues that occurred in the hotel due to lack of staff. With this trend occurring, what are some things hotels can do to increase satisfaction amongst guests and employees?

Technology is a huge part of the growing hotel industry. Many hotels are implementing different check-in and check-out options via technology allowing guests to speed up the process with a more limited front desk service available. Without a sufficient number of workers, the industry is using other ways to cover them, such as replacing some of their jobs with technology. Overall, this is a great idea, but if implemented long term, it can alter the expectations for hotels in the future. Guests would then expect more technology and less front desk interaction. Overall, I think technology is not a solution that can revive the hotel industry, however, having it does help during this time of lower employment rates. 

Since the industry is currently struggling with employment, what can the hospitality industry do to allure more job-seeking workers to open jobs?

About the Author

My name is Lex Fuller and I am a second year at Cal Poly Pomona. I am currently studying hospitality management with an emphasis on lodging. I have previously worked for three years at Hotel La Jolla, Hilton’s Curio Collection, in San Diego, California where I was a front desk agent. For my future career, I want to own my very own hotel. In this blog post, I talk about my experience and knowledge in the hospitality industry as well as explain the issues happening with employment. I also talk about what the pandemic has caused in relation to employment.

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