Looking For Labor

By Steve Pike

Thirteen months ago, the hospitality industry—from luxury resorts to mom-and-pop restaurants—was letting go of employees as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now in the middle of Spring 2021 and with a potentially strong summer on the horizon, many of those resorts, hotels and restaurants are trying to get back those same employees, as well as search for new employees.

But government stimulus checks, tax refund checks and unemployment benefits—up to $600 per week in some states—have kept people from returning to the workforce. That’s created an unprecedented glut of job openings in the hospitality industry.

It’s not unusual, for example, for a hotel or restaurant to post a sign—while reminding guests to wear masks and social distance—that also asks them to be kind to what could be a skeleton staff of workers.

Job fair postings by resorts and restaurants appear weekly on social media. Some resorts are offering signing bonuses (paid after anywhere from 30 to 90 days) to attract new employees. Others have had to limit occupancy to ensure quality of service.

“You have to be creative,” said Tom Mulroy, general manager of Plunge Beach Resort, a boutique hotel in Lauderdale by the Sea, FL. “The first thing you have to do is retain the staff you have.”

The Bureau of Labor Statistics earlier this month reported that the U.S. economy gained only 266,000 jobs this past April, as opposed to the one million jobs that had been forecasted. Not all those jobs gained or unfilled are in the hospitality industry, of course, but the numbers reflect a trend that has impacted the industry.

In South Florida, it’s estimated there are currently 25,000 jobs available in the hospitality (hotel and restaurant) industry. It’s a predicament that few experts saw coming as a full recovery begins to become a reality.

“Positions that you normally would never have a problem staffing—like bartenders—you’re finding hard to staff,” said Mulroy. “It’s always been challenging to find some positions, like line cooks and room attendants—but this is crazy.

“We’re all looking for talent in all positions. A property like mine—at the beach—we’re looking at occupancy levels similar to 2019, but with 50 to 75 percent of the staff.”

The worker search isn’t just a challenge in South Florida. Even places such as fabled Pebble Beach Resorts along the Monterey peninsula in California, is feeling the pain.

“Business has come roaring back, which is fantastic, but we’re having trouble finding qualified staff to provide all the work we need,” said John Sawin, vp and director of golf at Pebble Beach Resorts. “We’re spending a lot of time on hiring.”

Requirements for employment at the resort, Sawin said, haven’t changed, “but before (COVID-19), if we put up a job opening, we’d immediately have 10 to 15 qualified applicants. Now we don’t have that, so we’re almost doing more recruiting. Before, they came to us. But we have found some nice veins—some of the college teams whose players go to school online—have the abilities to work.”

When will the employee drought end?

“September, I believe, is when the constrictive effort for people not to come back to work is kind of released,” said Kai Fischer, general manager of the new Hilton Aventura Miami Hotel. “I think it’s easier today to find management talent than the hourly talent. We’ve had to be unconventional in our efforts. Many hourly (employees) are staying home and taking advantage of unemployment. They’re not ready to come back to work.”

COVID-19, Fischer said, basically gave the hotel industry the “wake up” call it needed to re-identify itself and re-formulate a better working model for owners.

“As hoteliers, we were leading the direction on service, but in some ways losing sight of return on investment from an ownership standpoint. When push came to shove, you had to dwindle down your operating model to the most viable individual you had in the operation to give the best services that the guest really required, rather than what you thought they wanted.

“I’ve turned into an art collector, sommelier and a food critic. Every hire I make, I’m looking for the best value and the greatest talent,” he concluded.

 

Survey: 71% Support Targeted Relief For Hotel Industry

WASHINGTONA recent national survey commissioned by the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) shows more than seven in ten Americans (71%) support the federal government providing targeted economic relief to the hotel industry as called for in the Save Hotel Jobs Act. The legislation, introduced by U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and U.S. Representative Charlie Crist (D-Fla.), will provide a lifeline to hotel employees, providing up to three months of full payroll support.

Recently, AHLA and UNITE HERE, the largest hospitality workers union in North America, joined forces to call on Congress to pass the Save Hotel Jobs Act. While many other hard-hit industries have received targeted federal relief, the hotel industry has not. In fact, hotels are the only major hospitality and leisure segment yet to receive direct aid. Without targeted relief from Congress, nationwide, hotels are expected to end 2021 down 500,000 jobs.

The survey of 2,200 adults was conducted March 1 – March 3, 2021 by Morning Consult on behalf of AHLA. Key findings of the survey include the following:

  • 71% of respondents support targeted economic relief for the hotel industry and its workforce
  • 79% of Democrats support targeted economic relief for the hotel industry and its workforce
  • 71% of Republicans support targeted economic relief for the hotel industry and its workforce
  • 60% of independents support targeted economic relief for the hotel industry and its workforce

“While many other hard-hit industries have received targeted federal relief, the hotel industry has not. No industry has been harder hit by the pandemic, and the results of this survey make clear that Americans support targeted Congressional action to keep hotel workers employed,” said Chip Rogers, president and CEO of AHLA. “After the most devastating year on record for hotels, we need additional support from Congress to retain and rehire our associates, revive our local communities and restart our economy.”
No industry has been more affected by the pandemic than hospitality. Leisure and hospitality has lost 2.8 million jobs during the pandemic that have yet to return, representing more than 25% of all unemployed persons in the United States, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Even more stark, the unemployment rate in the accommodation sector specifically remains 225% higher than the rest of the economy.

While leisure travel outlook continues to grow, the hotel industry is still hurting from this pandemic. Business travel is down 85% from pre-pandemic levels and is not expected to fully return until 2024. Unlike leisure travel, which can often be booked or changed at the last minute, meetings and events are scheduled months, if not years, in advance. Major events, conventions and business meetings have also already been canceled or postponed until at least 2022.

Tapestry Collection by Hilton Opens First All-Inclusive Resort With The Yucatan Resort Playa Del Carmen

PLAYA DEL CARMEN, Mexico and MCLEAN, Va. – Hilton (NYSE: HLT) today announced the opening of The Yucatan Resort Playa del Carmen, Tapestry Collection by Hilton, marking the first all-inclusive resort within the Tapestry Collection portfolio. Owned by FibraHotel (BMV: FIHO 12) and operated by an affiliate of Playa Hotels & Resorts N.V. (NASDAQ: PLYA, “Playa”), the adults-only resort sits on Playa del Carmen’s famed Fifth Avenue, just a short stroll from the local beach.

“We are thrilled to introduce the first Tapestry Collection resort to this extraordinary tropical destination,” said Manuel Villalobos, general manager, The Yucatan Resort Playa del Carmen. “Guests are in for a memorable stay thanks to Playa’s unique all-inclusive offerings and incredible location, combined with the trust and reliability of the Hilton name.”

The Yucatan Resort Playa del Carmen four-story property features 60 modern and sophisticated guest rooms and suites. Guest rooms are masterfully designed in neutral tones with pops of color and feature contemporary furnishings and striking décor.

Amenities

In addition to welcoming accommodations, the resort features unique amenities in an intimate setting, including a lively rooftop pool and bar as well as a spa offering a variety of rejuvenating services including body scrubs and wraps, facials and massages. Guests can choose to purchase the All-Inclusive+ package to gain access to a beautiful private beach and water activities, gourmet dining venues, glistening swimming pools and a signature spa featuring an authentic Temazcal stone steam bath all located just 500 meters away at Hilton Playa del Carmen, The Yucatan Resort Playa del Carmen’s sister hotel.

Dining

The Yucatan Resort Playa del Carmen offers a variety of dining options, including Sakura Maru Sushi Bar, which features Nikkei cuisine, a delicious fusion of Japanese and Peruvian delicacies such as ceviche, tiradito tataki and rice dishes. La Terraza Snack Bar serves authentic tacos, fresh seafood, seasoned wings, BBQ ribs, and seasonal handcrafted cocktails, which guests can savor while enjoying beautiful views of the city and ocean.

Local Attractions

Located along the Rivera Maya, Playa del Carmen is a resort town that features stunning beaches, world-class golf courses and an abundance of shopping and entertainment on Fifth Avenue. Guests can stroll the city’s chic streets and savor authentic cuisine featuring a unique blend of local and European flavors. Guests looking for adventure can also visit the nearby verdant Yucatan jungle, Mayan ruins and Rio Secreto Nature Reserve.

“As we continue to expand our all-inclusive portfolio, we are excited to officially welcome The Yucatan Resort Playa del Carmen to Tapestry Collection and offer guests a new and unique resort option,” said Gary Steffen, global category head, full service brands, Hilton. “Whether unwinding at the property’s picturesque rooftop pool, enjoying an authentically local meal or exploring Riviera Maya’s rich history and culture, The Yucatan Resort Playa del Carmen offers a wide variety of amenities and activities to travelers looking for that one-of-a-kind stay experience.”

Guests visiting The Yucatan Resort Playa del Carmen will enjoy peace of mind from check-in to check-out with Hilton’s new program, Hilton CleanStay, which provides a safer and cleaner stay. New procedures include contactless digital check-in and a Hilton CleanStay room seal to indicate that the room has not been entered since being thoroughly cleaned.

The Yucatan Resort Playa del Carmen is also part of Hilton Honors®, the award-winning guest-loyalty program for Hilton’s 18 distinct hotel brands. Hilton Honors members who book directly through preferred Hilton channels have access to instant benefits, including a flexible payment slider that allows members to choose nearly any combination of Points and money to book a stay, an exclusive member discount that can’t be found anywhere else and free standard Wi-Fi. Members also enjoy popular digital tools available exclusively through the industry-leading Hilton Honors mobile app, where Hilton Honors members can check in, choose their room and access their room using a Digital Key.

The Yucatan Resort Playa del Carmen, Tapestry Collection by Hilton is located at Quinta Avenida entre calle 30 y 32, Colonia Gonzalo Guerrero, CP 77720, Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo, Mexico, 55 kilometers from Cancun International Airpor

myDigitalOffice Announces The Acquisition Of Broadvine

BETHESDA, MD— myDigitalOffice (MDO), the leading technology platform for hotel performance management, today announces an asset purchase from Broadvine, a long standing provider of hotel performance planning applications, including their cloud-based budgeting and forecasting platform.

The addition of Broadvine’s technology will intensify MDO’s rapid growth and solidify their position as a market leader in hotel performance management and data analytics. The acquisition expands MDO’s platform by adding standardized hotel budgeting capabilities with week over week forecasts. Additionally, Broadvine’s customers will benefit from additional support and customer success resources from MDO’s globally dispersed team of hospitality technologists and customer success professionals.

“Budgeting and forecasting is the number one thing that our customers have asked us for over the last 18-24 months,” said Ali Moloo, founder and CEO of myDigitalOffice. “This acquisition instantly rounds out our platform to create a truly end-to-end hotel performance management system. It’s a monumental milestone for us and a great honor to welcome the Broadvine team into the MDO family as we continue to drive positive change in our industry through innovation and customer service.”

For years, Broadvine has been enabling its hospitality customers to store all of their hotel data in one location, review & edit budgets with ease, create driver-based budgets and forecasts, as well as compare any budget or forecast across their portfolios. Those customers will soon recognize the strength and momentum of myDigitalOffice and benefit from more innovation, product evolution, and world class customer success.

“We are excited to join the MDO team,” said Broadvine CEO, Lex Raleigh. “Empowering hoteliers to succeed is what we do. Now, with myDigitalOffice, we will lessen even more of the burdens and challenges that hoteliers face every day. I couldn’t be more proud or excited to combine our expertise with the MDO team and to continue to support hoteliers around the globe.”

Despite the global pandemic, myDigitalOffice more than doubled their customer base in 2020 and is expected to grow by more than 3x in 2021. The Broadvine acquisition is a testament to MDO’s commitment to continued innovation and growth and is a direct result of customer and market demand.

Debunking 8 Myths Of Mobile Check-In; What This Technology Can/Cannot Do for Your Hotel

By Warren Dehan

For many hoteliers, 2021 is likely to be a year of experimentation, both with new technology and existing tools that have gained new purpose. The abrupt end to the previous business cycle, brought on by the arrival of COVID-19, showed the industry guests are looking for increased flexibility with regards to the check-in process. Traveler interest in mobile check-in was rising before the pandemic, but today it is almost a necessity to secure hotly contested bookings. Unfortunately, many hoteliers interested in offering the service are holding back due to misconceptions about the technology. Here is my attempt to dispel eight of those myths.

Mobile Check-In Myth #1: Mobile check-in requires an intricate and existing technology infrastructure. When discussing alternative check-in technologies, you do not need to be a large, branded hotel to divert attention away from the front desk and speed up the check-in process. Any property, across every hotel segment and independent classification, can easily add mobile check-in as long as the technology is supported by the hotel’s property-management system provider either through a proprietary application or via a third-party integration to industry leading providers.

Mobile Check-In Myth #2: To process mobile bookings and provide contactless check-in the hotel must have Bluetooth Low Energy electronic door locks, as the service requires guests to have access to a smartphone. While BLE door locks can provide a more expansive end-to-end check-in experience, there are many ways to provide mobile check-in without them.

Mobile Check-In Myth #3: To facilitate mobile check-in, the hotel must offer a branded app. The most common way for hotels to manage mobile guest bookings is through a branded smartphone app, but solutions also exist for guests who do not want the hassle of downloading another app. Hotels without an app can push messages directly to travelers through the PMS, notifying them to stop by the front desk and collect a key on the way to their room. This way, even hotels that want their guests to be free from having to download an additional app, or those without a robust technology budget, can take advantage of mobile check-in.

Mobile Check-In Myth #4: Mobile check-in should only be featured at hotels targeting younger guests, such as Millennials. Since the purpose of this technology is to provide guests with a greater level of choice so that they may travel on their own terms, mobile check-in is suited for all travelers, regardless of the types of hotels they prefer. Some hoteliers have been falsely led to believe this technology will only be used by younger generations of guests and therefore is not worth the investment. The reality is that today anyone with a mobile device could potentially be interested in mobile check-in. After all, even traditionally outgoing travelers may be faced with safety concerns or sometimes hit a wall after a long day on the road and would prefer to skip right to their room.

Mobile Check-In Myth #5: Mobile check-in is cost prohibitive. Since its inception, mobile check-in has been viewed as a tool for hotels in large chains, backed by big brands, and able to weather the complexity of such a service. FALSE. The incremental costs associated with mobile check-in are miniscule considering the utility they provide, and if hotels choose not to invest in BLE door locks, installation costs are even lower. Advancements in the technology and its implementation are making mobile check-in cost effective for everyone, including operators of independent hotels, leveling the playing field with larger properties across the board.

Mobile Check-In Myth #6: Guest engagement levels decrease with mobile check-in. It can be argued, to a certain degree, that there are some elements of guest interaction that will disappear as hotels implement mobile check-in. However, operators must also consider that there are many travelers who simply don’t want a self-service stay. With the right PMS provider, a la carte tools are providing the option of in-person guest service (or front desk attendant check-in) when it is wanted and self-service (mobile check-in) when it is not, meeting the needs of ALL guests.

Mobile Check-In Myth #7: Mobile check-in puts a wedge between high-touch service and guest interactions. Providing choice should be seen as a guest service improvement, not a hindrance. The essence of hospitality comes from finding common ground between hotels and guests, and this cannot be achieved if hotels are resistant to providing the experience guests’ desire. Instead, embracing the changing elements of the hotel experience can provide greater engagement than ever before by interacting with guests when they are at their most comfortable.

Mobile Check-In Myth #8: Hoteliers lose revenue opportunities when providing mobile check-in. Operators can embrace these tools to aid in upselling rooms, adding amenities to bookings, and more, or they can provide an expanded check-in experience for each guest, facilitated over mobile bookings. This technology has made such a great impact on the industry because it can be used by anyone with a mobile device, allowing operators to nimbly cater the check-in experience to each individual guest’s preference.

About the Author
Warren Dehan is the President of Maestro, the preferred cloud and on-premises PMS solution for independent hotels, luxury resorts, conference centers, vacation rentals, and multi-property groups. Maestro was first to market with a fully integrated Windows PMS and Sales & Catering solution and is continuing that trend with leading edge web and mobile based solutions. Platform and deployment independence present Maestro as an investment that will continue to grow and adapt as new technologies emerge.

Survey Says…

There are a number of signs of optimism for a lodging industry rebound sooner than later, according to a recent survey released by the Hospitality Asset Managers Association (HAMA).

In addition to performance forecasts for this year, topics covered in the “Spring 2021 Industry Outlook Survey” included current acquisition appetites, new brand/management plans and labor issues.

Larry Trabulsi, EVP at CHMWarnick and current HAMA president, discussed the overall findings.

“In general, the story was things are still tough but maybe there’s a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel. Things seem to be getting better in a lot of markets, and hopefully that’s a sign of good things to come,” he said.

For example, the survey—which canvassed roughly 100 HAMA members—indicated that more than 50 percent of respondents are projecting a 25 to 50 percent decline in RevPAR for their portfolio in comparison to 2019 levels. There was a much smaller percentage, less than 25 percent, expecting a 50 to 75 percent decline in RevPAR.

Chad Sorenson, managing director and COO, CHMWarnick and Marketing Chair for HAMA, sees that as a reason for optimism.

“It’s a good indicator of what we’ve all been projecting and that were going to really see that recovery kick in after Memorial Day. The back half of the year should be markedly better than the front end of the year,” he said.

Sorenson added, “It’s playing out the way most of us were hoping it would and frankly quite a bit better in certain markets, such as Florida and resorts on the coast. And for smaller secondary and tertiary cities in the Midwest the recovery is well on the way. The golden ticket there really has been youth and collegiate sports.”

Furthermore, according to the survey, more than 50 percent of HAMA members believe RevPAR will return to 2019 levels by 2023. Not quite 10 percent believe it will occur as early as 2022, while approximately 37 percent believe it will happen in 2024.

One of the more interesting findings of the survey is that nearly 30 percent of respondents are contemplating brand or management changes as part of their recovery strategy. Approximately 5 percent said they were likely to change brands, 10 percent foresaw changing management companies and roughly 15 percent noted they would change both.

Sorenson explained the aforementioned results.

Owners are having to reset their investment strategy. This has presented an opportunity for ownership groups to really try to figure out what the best positioning and structure [of their hotels] looks like going forward so I think that’s what’s driving [these numbers]. To have that many owners thinking about changing things up, there’s a lot that’s going to take place here in the next 24 to 36 months,” he commented.

Trabulsi, meanwhile, noted those numbers are “definitely a sign of volatility in the market right now.”

The survey also took the pulse of the acquisition market with nearly 80 percent of respondents saying they were actively pursuing a deal. From a pricing standpoint, in urban markets for full-service and luxury properties, nearly 45 percent of those surveyed anticipated price discounts of 11 to 20 percent. While one respondent believed discounts could reach 41 percent or more off pre pandemic pricing, approximately 15 percent felt discounts would be as low as zero to 11 percent.

“I think this is indicative of the amount of capital available that is on the sidelines,” said Trabulsi.

Sorenson added, “I think we’ll continue to see more off-market transactions, especially for high quality assets.”

When it comes to distressed assets, approximately 15 percent of participants expected to either hand back keys to the lender or enter into a forced sale situation on at least one of their hotels. In addition, nearly 10 percent noted they had already done so.

Meanwhile, the three factors most concerting to participants right now include labor availability (75 percent), demand (60 percent) and labor costs (55 percent).

Trabulsi emphasized the labor challenges that still exist.

“Pre-COVID when we were running 80 plus percent occupancy we were all talking about how we didn’t have any labor. Now we’re running 30 and 40 percent occupancy and we still have no labor. There a lot of factors, the industry has lost people on furlough, government programs where people want to stay on sidelines, kids not being in school, but it’s interesting we have the same problem we had when we were 40 occupancy points higher than we are right now,” he said.

“I think most believe that the summer season is going to be very robust, with both air travel and drive travel, but the operating environment is going to be very challenged because of the labor piece,” concluded Sorenson.