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Finding dedicated workers and retaining them once they are trained has always been a challenge for hospitality, but in the current economic and social climate there is no time to waste on retraining workers only to lose them in the short term. In a market where acquiring skilled workers is the greatest challenge, retaining them becomes imperative.

As leisure travel begins to return and hotel occupancy increases, operators will be challenged to provide a high level of service to every guest on a limited staff. Hotels are not alone in seeking out new hires, as retail, restaurants, delivery services, and more are all bringing their workforces back at the same time.

According to Edward Gallier, head of Learning & Development at Jurys Inn & Leonardo Hotels UK & Ireland, a number of prior hotel employees were forced to find new positions during the pandemic. A significant portion of them are either not returning to hospitality or are actively considering new sectors.

“Hospitality has to fight for its place in the recruitment market,” Gallier said. “People today are making sure the next job they take is reliable and fits the lifestyle they’ve found for themselves over the last 14 months.”

Speaking Out

Hoteliers will need to embrace digital communication technology in order to onboard new employees and stay in contact with existing associates in the coming months. On one level, digital communications can help automate some of the onboarding process, freeing managers to continue to operate their properties at a high level. They also allow management to stay in contact with all associates in order to keep them up-to-date on operational changes, shifts in schedule, or for distributing training tips.

Hospitality turnover creates a number of unique challenges for operators right now because hotels are excellent training grounds for the development of a variety of professional skills, which often leave the industry never to return. According to Sandy Gentles, Vice President of Talent Point at Marriott International, hoteliers need to embrace communication as a key theme going forward when retaining employees, and seeking new ones.

“The key words right now are change, expectations, and communications,” Gentles said. “Everything about how we do business on property has changed. We need to communicate directly with returning front line associates in terms of what those changes are and why.”

Gentles elaborated that this should be an ongoing process, as hospitality is an ever-changing industry and associates may require weekly—or even daily—updates in order to operate at the highest level in some markets. Gallier agreed with this strategy, and challenged operators to foster a positive internal culture and a willingness to teach through improved internal communication.

“People will pick employers based on their reputation, but ultimately employers have to create a job role that is enticing, attached to a company culture that shows workers it is a great place to be,” Gallier said. “Hospitality has always had these elements, but in a discerning market it is necessary to find ways to stand out. A good employer will try harder to make their roles attractive.”

Over the last year, frontline hotel workers adapted to face masks, plastic barriers erected between them and guests, and sanitation guidelines that seemed to change each day. With vaccination rates increasing and the global economy slowly picking up steam, more changes are inevitable. Hoteliers must stay on top of shifts in the travel ecosystem, and they must be able to quickly, efficiently, and confidently share that information with guests and employees.

Lean Teams

All across the industry hoteliers have been finding ways to “do more with less.” Fewer guests meant fewer amenities and services, lower rates but also lower operating costs. Now hoteliers are being asked to do more with fewer associates, and this is simply not possible without the use of advanced communication technology. With it your hotel can operate at high level with a more efficiently sized team, while keeping these workers engaged.

Employee engagement comes in many forms. According to Gentles, operators showing a willingness to provide small concessions in order to improve an associate’s work or home life go a long way toward maintaining their interest at the property.

“Due to the pandemic there has been a need for greater flexibility when working with employees, since everyone’s lives have been disrupted,” Gentles said. “As hoteliers, we need to do whatever we can to keep our best employees on property. Something as simple as engineering a schedule that allows parents to spend more time with their children, or even 

arranging for childcare as kids come home from school, could eliminate the barriers to hospitality employment for many.”

Digital communication tools such as Beekeeper’s are perfect for organizing schedules such as these, allowing management to stay up to date on each employees’ status and needs. By organizing schedules this way, all hotel associates will be consistently informed as to who is working when, who needs assistance covering shifts, and how to get in contact with anyone necessary.

“Having a close and effective team has never mattered so much,” Gallier said. “The number of people on a shift team is definitely less. [Associates] need additional knowledge of products and services that are available, must stay updated on restrictions being lifted, and be able to share that information competently with guests and their co-workers. They can achieve this through support with data, technology, and their line manager.”

Rebounding Employees

Teamwork has never mattered as much as it does today, and as furloughed employees gradually step back on property hotel leadership will have to address the divide that may have formed between them and workers who stayed on during the pandemic. Gallier clarified that both groups of employees were forced to overcome different challenges during the pandemic, and both need to be addressed in unique ways in order for workers to feel valued.

“People have been forced to overcome a great deal of mental and physical tiredness during this period, and now some of them are coming back to work,” Gallier said. “Everyone dealt with the pandemic in their own way, but returning employees are coming back to a work environment that is very different from what they are used to. Employers cannot underplay the significance of that element.”

It has been often said that those who have returned to hospitality are the workers who truly want to be there, but Gentles cautioned the industry against relying on this way of thinking as a crutch to avoid confronting the current labor shortage and the retention challenge around the corner.

“When we say [workers] are coming back for passion, there is only so far that attitude will get us during this rehire,” Gentles said. “We have to understand what is driving their search for employment this time around, and that will be different for each associate and market but we have to become more efficient at understanding what those drivers are.”

Returning workers must also find commonality with those who stayed on during the pandemic, as both groups went through demonstratively different experiences following worker furloughs. Beekeeper’s technology can help new and returning workers stay in touch to speed up the onboarding process for each role, while providing a communication platform for workers to build rapport. These tools are also useful for helping existing employees acquaint themselves with newly developed roles during the labor shortage.

“[There is a need for] a team that can work cross-departments, cross roles, and have greater understanding and empathy for colleagues doing different roles,” Gallier said.

Worker Hospitality

The biggest trend going forward is the need for hoteliers to make their properties destinations not only for bookings, but for applicants. This means flexibility where it did not previously exist, a willingness to understand the hotel worker as much as the hotel guest, and a desire to extend hospitality to everyone under your property’s roof. Most importantly, hotels must use the visibility modern video and social media presents to get the word out about the value of their property and the potential for future growth within the industry.

According to Gallier, the long-term impact of labor disruption will be the rewriting of hotel roles, creating an environment that enables collaboration across the property, supported by a shared learning of hospitality skills.

“[Hospitality] has always been a business where it is easy to move sideways based on associate interests, and we have ladders in place for promotion and personal development,” Gallier said. “We are beginning to cultivate teams within hotels who are capable of working across departments and roles, based on the training we can provide both on hand and digitally.”

Gentles is optimistic about the future of hotel employment, and he looks forward to hospitality’s growing search for talent outside of typical channels.

“Opening the door to have [outside workers] move into hospitality is a game changer,” Gentles said. “We have the technology and the system in place to make anyone with a hospitality mindset successful on property. If we can connect with the right personality, the sky's the limit.”

Even as the industry overcomes the current hiring challenge it is facing, hoteliers will need to confront the challenge of  doing more with less and retaining these workers. Both Gentles and Gallier agreed that technology and a willingness to experiment with new operational strategies are key to overcoming these difficulties. Hospitality has just come out of one of the most difficult periods in its history, and the tools exist to help operators find continued success even in a landscape dominated by constant change.

 
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July 19, 2021 (OTTAWA) - The Coalition of Hardest Hit Businesses has released the following statement in response to today’s border announcement:

“The Coalition of Hardest Hit Businesses is pleased by today’s plan for reopening Canada’s border. Our businesses look forward to safely welcoming U.S. travellers in August and international travellers in September.

While this is welcome news, most tourism businesses lost our international travel summer season. This reopening alone will not save many of Canada’s businesses in the tourism, travel, hospitality, arts, festivals and events sectors from financial ruin this fall and winter.

Over the coming months, our industry is facing a perfect storm. The wage subsidy (CEWS) and fixed costs (CERS) support programs that kept us alive are sharply declining, while business and convention travel remain low, and Canadians think about travel south in the fall and winter.

Even with Canada’s border open to all fully vaccinated international travellers, Canada’s hardest hit businesses need tailored support to stay alive and employing almost two million people.”

 
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Washington (July 20, 2021) – Midway through 2021, a new report and state-by-state job loss breakdown released by the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) find that while leisure travel is starting to return, the hotel industry’s road to recovery from the pandemic is long and uneven, with urban markets disproportionately impacted.

Industry projections have improved since January with the uptick in leisure travel, but the industry remains well below pre-pandemic levels. Key findings include:

  1. More than one in five direct hotel operations jobs lost during the pandemic—nearly 500,000 in total—will not have returned by the end of the year
  2. Hotel occupancy is projected to drop ten percentage points from 2019 levels
  3. Hotel room revenue will be down $44 billion this year compared to 2019
  4. States and localities will have lost more than $20 billion in unrealized tax revenues from hotels over the past two years

The findings come as AHLA and the Asian American Hotel Owners Association host their Virtual Action Summit (July 20-22), where hoteliers from nearly every state across the country are scheduled to meet with members of Congress to share how COVID-19 impacted the industry and call for additional aid by urging Congress to:

  • Cosponsor and pass the Save Hotel Jobs Act (S.1519/H.R.3093)
  • Cosponsor and pass bills to establish fair per diem rates (H.R.2104/S.2160)
  • Help provide hoteliers access to the Employee Retention Tax Credit, which currently excludes many hoteliers

“Despite an uptick in leisure travel, midway through 2021 we’re still seeing that the road to a full recovery for America’s hotels is long and uneven. These findings show the economic devastation still facing hotel markets and underscore the need for targeted relief from Congress for hotel workers and small businesses,” said Chip Rogers, president and CEO of AHLA“Hotels and their employees have displayed extraordinary resilience in the face of unprecedented economic challenges, but whether it’s the Save Hotel Jobs Act, fair per diem rates, or expanding the aperture on the Employee Retention Tax Credit, we need Congress’ help on the way to a full recovery. That’s why the industry is united behind our Virtual Action Summit.”

COVID-19 is the single worst economic event in the history of the American hotel industry. While the recent uptick in leisure travel for summer is encouraging, business and group travel, the industry’s largest source of revenue, will take significantly longer to recover. Business travel is down and not expected to return to 2019 levels until at least 2023 or 2024. Major events, conventions and business meetings have also already been canceled or postponed until at least 2022.  

Despite being among the hardest hit by the pandemic, hotels are the only segment of the hospitality and leisure industry yet to receive direct COVID-related aid.

 
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Together with the Canadian Travel and Tourism Roundtable (The Roundtable), industry leaders from Ottawa are calling on the federal government to announce a reopening plan for Canadians before calling an election. With the second consecutive summer travel season now officially in jeopardy, time is ticking for Ottawa businesses.

In a normal year, Ottawa’s tourism sector generates $2.2 billion in revenue; last year $1.4 billion was lost to COVID-19. The summer travel season is disproportionately important to local Ottawa businesses.

With vaccination rates where they are today, businesses have suffered unnecessarily; in large part resulting from the federal government’s failure to produce a comprehensive and science-based reopening plan.

Canadians have been rushing in droves to get vaccinated – breaking records nearly every day. In Ottawa alone, nearly 50 per cent of Ottawa adults are now fully vaccinated and almost 70 per cent have received one dose of the vaccine, making Ottawa one of the most vaccinated cities in the world. The federal government should be rewarding this effort with clear guidance on what reopening looks like. Fully vaccinated foreign travellers are still unable to visit Canada and this leaves a devastating impact on local business.

As Canada gears up for a likely fall election, the Canadian Travel and Tourism Roundtable requests that the federal government hold off on sending Canadians to the polls until a comprehensive reopening plan is established and implemented. We can’t play politics with the livelihoods of Canadians and Canadian business.

Quotes

Perrin Beatty, President and CEO, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce 

“Canada is known for having some of the most amazing tourist attractions in the world. Every year millions of foreign nationals visit cities across the country to experience first-hand what Canada has to offer. This year, for the second year in a row, local businesses that rely on national and internationals visitors are still struggling,” said Perrin Beatty, President and CEO of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce. “We all know that an election means a pause on all government activity. Canadians and Canadian businesses deserve to know what re-opening looks like long before a
federal election is called.”

Sueling Ching, President and CEO, Ottawa Board of Trade

“At this stage in the pandemic, we expect our federal government to have a clear plan in place. Countless businesses in Ottawa have either already permanently closed or are on the brink of bankruptcy,” said Sueling Ching, President and CEO, Ottawa Board of Trade. “Our business community needs a predictable, clear and science-based plan in place to build back our economy. Tourism in the Ottawa area is a key driver of the local economy which normally draws millions of  visitors each year. With vaccines rolling out across the country, businesses expected that tourism would return to Ottawa. Instead we are left waiting for a plan.”

Susie Grynol, President and CEO, Hotel Association of Canada

“Eighty percent of Canadian tourism revenue comes in over twenty per cent of the time. July through Labour Day is disproportionately important to sustain our sector. The large number of visitors in Canada's summer months is able to sustain hospitality and tourism operators through the slower winter travel season. Cutting that period short, even a little bit will significantly impact their likelihood of survival,” said Susie Grynol, President and CEO of the Hotel Association of Canada.

Jamie Kwong, Executive Director, Ottawa Music Industry Coalition

“The pandemic has devastated Ottawa’s music sector and shown how crucial the arts are to Ottawa’s business community. Our members rely on the influx of foreign tourists every year, particularly in the summer months, for their livelihoods,” said Jamie Kwong, Executive Director, Ottawa Music Industry Coalition. “By bringing together artists, local businesses, venues, and festivals together, our Coalition makes meaningful contributions to the local economy and cultural fabric of this country. We are calling on the federal government to put a plan in place to prevent
further negative economic and cultural impacts.”

Joe Kowalski, Founder of Wilderness Tours, Ottawa River

“After operating for over 40 years, Wilderness Tours has become a major attraction and adventure destination for Canadians and foreign tourists alike. Like all businesses across the country, we have done our part this year to put in place strong COVID-19 protocols to protect our staff and guests, despite challenging circumstances,” said Joe Kowalski, Founder of Wilderness Tours, Ottawa River. “With vaccination rates rising every day, we believe the government should have a clear re-opening plan in place to ensure we don’t lose yet another summer of tourism.”

Ross Meredith, General Manager, The Westin Ottawa

“Usually at this time of year The Westin Ottawa is buzzing with people from all over the world. This year, it’s eerily quiet. Ottawa is a world-class city, we are home to many of the best festivals, concerts, and sporting events that the country has to offer. However this year everything’s cancelled,” said Ross Meredith, General Manager, The Westin Ottawa. “Our ballrooms are empty, and restaurants are quiet – no weddings, no conferences, no meetings. As a result, our hotel is struggling. We need a plan to start getting back to normal, we can’t afford to wait.”

 
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At the end of Q2 2021, Europe remained the only world region with a year-over-year increase in hotel rooms in construction, according to June pipeline data from STR.

June 2021 (% changes in comparison with June 2020)

Europe

  • In Construction: 237,304 rooms (+7.9%)
  • Final Planning: 177,165 rooms (+13.0%)
  • Planning: 147,712 rooms (-6.4%)

Germany (49,027) and the U.K. (36,444) lead Europe in total rooms in construction.

Asia Pacific

  • In Construction: 476,302 rooms (-2.8%)
  • Final Planning: 181,453 rooms (+8.8%)

Planning: 271,268 rooms (+13.6%)

Among countries in the region, China has the most rooms in construction (290,619), followed by Vietnam (31,732). 

Middle East & Africa

  • In Construction: 135,740 rooms (-3.6%)
  • Final Planning: 45,313 rooms (-9.0%)
  • Planning: 57,953 rooms (-13.8%)

Saudi Arabia (39,362) and United Arab Emirates (37,954) lead in construction activity.  

Americas

  • In Construction: 243,395 rooms (-11.2%)
  • Final Planning: 243,809 rooms (-19.8%)
  • Planning: 297,929 rooms (+25.9%)

The U.S. holds the majority of rooms in construction in the region. In addition to the U.S., Mexico (13,721) and Canada (9,325) have the highest number of rooms in construction in the region.

 

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