U.S. Hotels Ramp Up to Meet Rising Holiday Travel Demand

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Americans are on the move, at least for the holiday season. About 34% are expected to travel overnight for the holidays, and an already struggling hotel industry is scrambling to keep up.

According to Indeed, nearly 85,000 hotel jobs are open nationwide, and a study by the American Hotel and Lodging Association reports that 82% of hotels are short-staffed.

“America’s nearly 62,500 hotels are a bright spot for the nation’s economy,” said AHLA President & CEO Chip Rogers. “To continue growing, they need to hire more people, but a nationwide shortage of workers is preventing hotels from regaining all the jobs we lost to the pandemic.”

With increased bookings and heightened guest expectations for the holiday season, many hotels are implementing strategies to ensure they’re fully staffed and prepared to deliver exceptional service.

“Our utmost priority at Tom Quick Inn is to guarantee a smooth and pleasurable experience for all of our visitors, with particular emphasis on the jubilant Christmas season,” says Steven Rosado, director of the Milford Pa. hotel. “We have executed a range of tactics to ensure the preservation of the exceptional level of service that our clientele anticipates. This includes providing holiday pay, employing additional seasonal personnel, and offering competitive compensation as incentives for our team.” 

Rosado continues, “Our dedication to cultivating a favorable workplace atmosphere is manifested in the outstanding experiences that we provide for our clientele.”

Rise in Holiday Travel and Preference for Hotels Return

The increase in holiday travelers over last year suggests a robust 2023 travel season, with hotels playing a central role in accommodating guests at some of the best vacation spots across the country. The report also sheds light on changing travel attitudes. Approximately 45% of Americans are more likely to stay in a hotel this holiday season than last year. 

This shift indicates strong consumer confidence in hotels as safe, reliable, and enjoyable accommodation options.

“Two years ago, we spent our Christmas vacation in Toronto,” says frequent traveler Margarita Ibbott. “While the hotel was amazing, it was pretty evident they didn’t have enough employees, and it put a damper on our stay there. We opted not to travel for the holidays last year, but we’re hoping things have noticeably improved when we travel this Christmas.”

Innovative Staffing Solutions

Hotels face year-round staffing challenges, but these issues become particularly acute during the holiday season. The lingering effects of pandemic-related workforce reductions have further exacerbated this situation. Even luxury hotels are not immune to the struggles. To tackle these intensified challenges, the AHLA reports hotels are adopting several direct and effective strategies:

Offering Competitive Compensation and Benefits: Hotels are introducing extra incentives to attract and keep employees. While these additional benefits differ from one property to another, they may include:

  • Greater flexibility with hours – work as few or as many hours as desired
  • Same-day pay
  • Sign-on and retention bonuses
  • Free in-shift meals
  • Access to hotel amenities, such as gyms, pools, etc.
  • Discounted hotel stays
  • Transportation stipends

Investing in Training and Development: Hotels are also focusing on training programs to quickly bring new employees up to speed and improve the skills of their existing staff.

Utilizing Technology: By implementing new technologies, hotels aim to streamline their operations and reduce the workload on their employees.

Forming Partnerships with Hospitality Schools: These collaborations are help create internship and job opportunities for hospitality students.

Automation On the Rise

Sloan Dean, CEO of top hotel management company Remington Hospitality, says an innovative solution to the staffing shortage is to automate jobs that no longer require humans. Dean says, “Job replacement: It’s coming, it’s now, and it’s happening.” 

The most recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics shows the average hourly wage in the hotel industry is currently $23.36. This represents a growth rate that’s more than 30% faster than the average wage increase across all sectors since the pandemic began, and is a contributing factor to hotels struggling to keep a full staff of workers. 

Advocates for automation argue that it offers mutual benefits. With rising employee wages, hotels can reduce costs by implementing automated solutions like self-check-in kiosks and chatbots for answering routine inquiries. This approach helps with cost-saving and allows staff to focus more on guest interaction, potentially enhancing customer satisfaction.

Elevating the Family Experience

The Fairmont Scottsdale Princess Conference Center in Scottsdale, Ariz., renowned for its “Christmas at the Princess” event, illustrates how hotels can effectively manage holiday staffing by focusing on engaging itineraries for families. These family-centered activities not only attract guests but also appeal to job seekers who are drawn to the festive and family-friendly atmosphere. This approach, centered around creating unique itineraries for families, has been vital in building a robust and motivated workforce, particularly during the bustling holiday season.

“We have been very lucky at the Princess with regard to hiring new colleagues for Christmas at the Princess, says Rosemary Taylor, Regional Director of Talent & Culture, Fairmont Scottsdale Princess. “We have had great success utilizing job fairs and leveraging our social media platforms and public relations to attract new employees. We offer weekly stay bonuses for our seasonal colleagues, free meals, and a fun environment. Our Christmas event is quite popular — so many people looking for seasonal employment are already aware that we will have opportunities for them. This also really helps us with staffing for the next year, as 90% of our seasonal colleagues get offered full-time or permanent part-time positions in January.” 

As the hotel industry wraps up its strategies for the holiday season, it’s clear that the key to a fully booked hotel lies in fully staffing it. In this season of giving, the industry’s gift of innovative solutions and family-focused itineraries ensures that guests and employees have much to celebrate.

This article was produced for Media Decision and syndicated by Our Woven Journey.

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Karee Blunt is a nationally syndicated travel journalist, focused on discovering destinations and experiences that captivate and inspire others through her writing. She is also the founder of Our Woven Journey, a travel site focused on inspiring others to create memory-making adventures with their loved ones. Karee is passionate about encouraging others to step out of their comfort zone and live the life they dream of. She is the mother of six kids, including four through adoption, and lives with her family in the Pacific Northwest. You can learn more about Karee on her about me page.