With more than 80% of hotels experiencing staffing shortages, hoteliers are offering potential hires a host of incentives to fill vacancies, according to a new survey of hoteliers conducted by the Washington-based American Hotel & Lodging Association.
Seventy-five percent of respondents are increasing wages, 64% are offering greater flexibility with hours and 36% are expanding benefits, but 87% say they are still unable to fill open positions.
Eighty-two percent of survey respondents indicate they are experiencing a staffing shortage, 26% severely so ― meaning the shortage is impacting the hotel’s ability to operate. The most critical staffing need is housekeeping, with 40% ranking it as their top hiring need.
These numbers have increased slightly from January 2023, when 79% of survey respondents indicated they were experiencing a staffing shortage. The figures have improved since May of 2022, however, when 97% of survey respondents indicated they were experiencing a staffing shortage, 49% severely so.
Respondents to the most recent survey are attempting to fill almost nine positions per property, up from 7 positions in January but still down from 12 vacancies per property in May 2022.
From the opposite perspective, these staffing challenges are resulting in historic career opportunities for hotel employees. There are more than 100,000 hotel jobs currently open across the nation, and as of April, national average hotel wages were at an all-time high 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.
“The need for workers throughout the lodging industry continues to drive historic career opportunities for hotel employees, who are enjoying record wages and better benefits and flexibility than ever before,” said AHLA President & CEO Chip Rogers. “That’s why AHLA and the AHLA Foundation remain focused on growing the industry’s talent pipeline through workforce recruitment and retention initiatives like the Foundation’s Empowering Youth and Registered Apprenticeship programs. But there is still more to be done. We need Congress to help address workforce shortages with bipartisan solutions, including those that create opportunities for more immigrants to enter the American economy.”
As of April, the United States had nearly 10.1 million job openings, but only 5.7 million unemployed people to fill them, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The AHLA asserts that Congress can help hoteliers address workforce shortages by taking the following actions:
Expand the legal H-2B guest worker program by including an H-2B Returning Worker Exemption in the Fiscal Year 2024 Department of Homeland Security appropriations bill. The H-2B program is vital to helping independent hotels and resorts in remote vacation destinations fill seasonal roles, but the program is capped at 66,000 visas each year. AHLA is asking Congress to modify the H-2B nonimmigrant visa program by exempting returning workers from the inadequate 66,000 annual visa cap. These employees would provide critical staffing relief for seasonal small business hotels and help to rebuild the post-pandemic economy.
Co-sponsor and pass the Asylum Seeker Work Authorization Act (255/H.R.1325). A historic number of asylum seekers are already housed in hotels across America. They are awaiting court dates and are following the legal process. Unfortunately, current law prevents them from legally working for at least six months, forcing them to rely on assistance from local governments and communities. This bipartisan legislation would help hotels address critical staffing needs by allowing asylum seekers to work as soon as 30 days after applying for asylum.
AHLA’s Front Desk Feedback survey consisted of interviews with 474 hoteliers was conducted May 3-9.