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67% of surveyed hotels report staffing shortages

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More than 80% of hotels are boosting wages to hire and retain staff.

WASHINGTONAs more than two thirds of hotels continue to experience staffing shortages, hoteliers are offering more pay and a host of incentives in order to attract and retain talent, according to a new survey conducted by the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA).

Over the last six months, 82% percent of respondents have increased wages, which hit a record high average for hotels in December 2023. In addition, 59% are offering greater flexibility with hours, and 33% are expanding benefits. Nonetheless, 72% say they are still unable to fill open positions.

Sixty-seven percent of survey respondents said they are experiencing a staffing shortage, and 12% said they are “severely understaffed,” meaning the shortage is affecting their ability to operate. The most critical staffing need is housekeeping, with 48% ranking it as their top hiring need.

These numbers are an improvement from May 2023, when 82% of survey respondents indicated they were experiencing a staffing shortage.

Respondents to the most recent survey are attempting to fill an average of nine positions per property, nearly unchanged from May 2023 but up from the seven vacancies per property average in January 2023.

Ongoing staffing challenges are resulting in historic career opportunities for hotel employees. There are more than 70,000 hotel jobs currently open across the nation, according to Indeed, and as of December 2023, national average hotel wages were at an all-time high of $23.91 per hour, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Additionally, average hotel wages have increased faster than average wages throughout the general economy since the pandemic, and hotel benefits and flexibility are better than ever.

“The hotel workforce situation is slowly improving thanks to record-high average wages and better benefits and upward mobility than ever before,” said AHLA President & CEO Chip Rogers. “But nationwide labor shortages are preventing hoteliers from filling tens of thousands of jobs, and that problem will weigh heavily on our members until Congress takes action. We urge lawmakers to address this urgent issue by creating an H-2B returning worker exemption, passing the Asylum Seeker Work Authorization Act, and passing the H-2 Improvements to Relieve Employers (HIRE) Act.”

As of December, the United States had 9 million job openings, but only 6.3 million unemployed people to fill them, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Congress can help hoteliers address workforce shortages by taking the following actions:

  • Expanding and streamlining the legal H-2B guestworker program. 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. Exempting returning workers from this inadequate cap would help hoteliers hire employees who can provide critical staffing relief for seasonal small business hotels and help rebuild the post-pandemic economy.
  • Cosponsor and pass the Asylum Seeker Work Authorization Act (S. 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.
  • Cosponsor and pass the H-2 Improvements to Relieve Employers (HIRE) Act. This bill would expand the H-2A/H-2B labor certification period to three years and permanently authorize the waiver of in-person interviews for returning workers. The HIRE Act would make it easier for qualified workers to secure jobs in fields that are struggling to recruit and retain enough employees to meet demand.
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Theodore is the Co-Founder and Managing Editor of TravelDailyNews Media Network; his responsibilities include business development and planning for TravelDailyNews long-term opportunities.

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