The Travel Industry’s Staffing Predicament

The Travel Industry’s Staffing Predicament

With U.S. travel restrictions easing for vaccinated individuals and international travel resuming in higher numbers, the travel industry is finally on its long-awaited road to recovery. Four in 10 Americans plan to take at least one trip that includes a flight and paid lodging between Memorial Day and the end of September. This figure is promising, as travel intent is close to pre-pandemic trends; in the summer of 2019, 42% of Americans surveyed expected to engage in leisure travel.

Although the worst of the pandemic (hopefully) seems to be in the rear-view mirror — hotels have another pressing crisis to overcome. While demand is returning, employees are not. An industry that once accounted for 1 in 25 U.S. jobs now faces a substantial staff shortage.

A Slew of Travel-Related Job Losses

Travel and hospitality jobs have been the hardest hit by the pandemic. Almost four in 10 of all U.S. jobs lost to Covid are in the leisure & hospitality sector. As reported by the Department of Labor, this translates to three times the number of jobs lost in the next most-affected industry.

Travel Association President and CEO, Roger Dow, puts this problem into perspective within the economy at large:

The math is pretty easy: the U.S. economy won’t get back on track until the Leisure and Hospitality sector is back on track, and that’s going to take aggressive policy actions. Safely restarting travel needs to become a national priority, which means not only relief measures but pressing ahead on vaccinations and continuing to emphasize best health practices. This is an all-hands-on-deck problem, with the government, industry, and also the public having important roles to play.

According to the U.S. Travel Association, in order to shorten the industry’s recovery period and restore jobs more quickly, tax incentives and subsidies to cover the cost of virus prevention efforts are in order. 

The Industry Struggles to Fill Positions

 Although the resurgence of the travel industry gave way to more job openings, many businesses are experiencing difficulty attracting interest in vacant positions. A U.S. Census survey fielded in April of this year found that staffing shortages have restricted 37% of small hospitality businesses’ operating abilities.

The industry’s rehiring dilemma can be attributed to a slim candidate pool triggered by various factors. To begin, unemployment benefits may have led some employees on the lower end of the pay scale — including those occupying back-of-the-house positions and line cooks — to be less inclined to return to the workforce. Another reason for the lack of available staff is that a sizable number of furloughed hotel employees switched career paths to pursue more stable industries. With millions of hotels reopening at the same time, competition for available employees is through the roof. As the pandemic reaches its conclusion, labor needs are likely to continue to rise.

Labor Management Technology Solutions

Many hotels are leveraging labor management technology to assist them in navigating labor shortages. Using artificial intelligence and advanced forecasting algorithms, labor management technology can gauge variables in shifts in real-time, creating a flexible schedule that ensures hoteliers can maximize employees’ availability.

When hotels are short-staffed, technology can forecast small increments of demand and automate staffing per those increments, delivering operational efficiency. Suppose a hotel’s forecast projects 200 guests will dine in on a Friday lunch shift. In that case, the technology will calculate the number of guests who will dine in between 11:30 a.m. - 2:00 p.m. and make automated scheduling adjustments to meet labor demands. Such insights empower hotels to allocate resources while ensuring customers’ needs are met effectively.

Traditional models that use manual scheduling put employees at a disadvantage, reducing their ability to maximize their hours and income. With new technology, forecasting insights ensure servers who rely on tips to offset their lower minimum wage (US$ 2.13 per hour) are not working during periods of decreased demand, as servers can spend those hours working in another role or doing other activities. Technology can also allow hotels to leverage alternative resources of labor to combat staffing shortages. For instance, businesses can incorporate non-traditional labor structures that cross-utilize employees across multiple locations or departments or enlist independent contractors to support full-time staff.

Salesforce’s Shift Management App

Hotels and cruise lines can use Salesforce’s Shift Management for scheduling tool to outline daily labor needs and employees’ available hours, allowing managers to make proactive scheduling decisions. Managers can access Salesforce’s Shift Management app from their mobile devices, allowing them to react in real-time when scheduling needs to be adjusted. Salesforce’s app enables cruise lines and hotels to reconcile shift coverage with employee availability while creating occupancy models that allow a safe return to work. With Salesforce’s scheduling solution, employees can review and confirm their shifts from the mobile app and receive notifications about their schedules.

Gerent has been helping businesses in the travel sector design and implement Salesforce solutions for over a decade. We have a thorough understanding of the hotel sector as a whole and would be happy to assist you with your unique situation. To strike up a conversation with an expert, contact us today!

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