Photo by Nick Wong

As businesses move to re-open, hotels continue to struggle with the aftershocks of COVID-19. Around the world, civil unrest continues to percolate as protestors, fatigued by the restrictions, are taking to the streets en masse, staging blockades and protests to force governments to end restrictions. And while this happens, the great divide between the vaccinated and the unvaxed grows infinitely larger.

For hoteliers caught in this quagmire, all eyes are on how to re-open safely. The industry is undergoing a transformative period fuelled by the vagaries of the pandemic. But aside from wondering when border restrictions will ease, when travellers will once again feel comfortable travelling and just how long will it take to bring businesses to pre-pandemic levels, hoteliers are being left to wonder where their supply of staff will come from as labour shortages continue to threaten the viability of this industry.

Hoteliers will need to look at short-term solutions while developing long-term strategies — hopefully strengthened by government assistance — to bring the industry back to where it once was and ensure the necessary number of employees to care for guests.

The Great Resignation has altered the face of the industry, as many employees were forced to leave jobs — not necessarily because they wanted to, but, to a large degree, because they had to due to hotel closures. Now, as the industry re-opens, it remains to be seen whether workers will return to hospitality. Undoubtedly, COVID-19 has exacerbated the labour challenges that pre-date the pandemic, but after two years of roller-coaster closures, will hotel companies have the financial resources to compete with other sectors for staff? As Christopher Bloore, president of the Tourism Industry Association of Ontario, recently told me during a podcast interview, “We have to open up the conveyor belt of people that are interested in working in our industry, because we can’t rely on the same group.”

To effectively do this will require sound, decisive strategies that will successfully attract all demographics by promoting better pay, realistic hours to ensure a balanced work/life perspective, and a new, more holistic perspective to viewing staff as an integral part of the equation to a company’s success. Some, like Cayley Dow, HR specialist, believe “The most important thing businesses can do to retain employees is to design the right culture.”

As Bloore stressed, to compete successfully with other industries, the industry will need to more effectively sell itself by “dissecting the myths that have plagued it,” by undertaking “reputational repair,” and by highlighting “the opportunities you can’t enjoy anywhere else.”


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