Hotels are giving employees the VIP guest treatment and boasting new benefits.
With businesses hot on hiring for the summer as the hospitality industry, in particular, continues to face a labor shortage, hotel owners are incentivizing employees to work with free beachfront lodging, fitness equipment, career skills training and better benefits.
When senior staffers returned to the New York City hotel Gansevoort Meatpacking after working virtually for eight months, the hotel, which recently underwent a multimillion-dollar renovation, gifted them a special welcome back present – The Mirror, a $1,345 connected fitness machine with a $42 per month subscription to stream on-demand workouts when they’re off the clock, an amenity guests of the $535-a-night hotel get in their rooms.
The fitness freebie was a "thanks to certain senior staff returning from virtual work circumstances to the hotel itself sooner than they might otherwise have wanted to," Michael Achenbaum, president and founder of Gansevoort Hotel Group, told FOX Business, adding the pricy perk for staff members was gifted "in recognition of their dedication to us."
Achenbaum has experienced first-hand the difficulties of not only hiring in the post-pandemic but retaining past employees.
"Hiring has been incredibly challenging. Not only is finding qualified candidates difficult but there is a consistent acceptance of offers and then no-shows on the first day. [Some] staff are also finding other jobs and walking out for minor salary bumps at competitive properties," Achenbaum explained.
While the leisure and hospitality industry added 5.4 million jobs in the last year, employment within the sector is still down 2.8 million jobs, or 16.8%, since February 2020, according to statistics from the Bureau of Labor.
Curtis Bashaw, CEO of Cape Resorts, a hotel group with properties in beach towns like Cape May, New Jersey, and Sag Harbor, New York, said his staffing was at 75% in May, adding that stalled visas for returning international employees, travel bans and extended unemployment benefits have been hiring hurdles during the pandemic. To retain and incentivize new employees, Bashaw implemented a free room and board program where employees will get to live by the beach for free and get access to a hospitality training program to learn new career skills like accounting and marketing.
"We do have housing opportunities here and we’re leveraging those in our recruitment. It’s a full employment package where they can come be by the beach and learn a new industry," Bashaw said, adding that he already recruited 90 people at the start of the season in May.
Other hotels are flexing employee benefits as another way to lure in new talent and retain staff. At ACE Hotel New Orleans, located in the Warehouse District, health benefits, including medical, dental and vision for employees, kick in on the first day of employment instead of its pre-pandemic policy where there was a 90-day wait period. The company also added coverage for domestic partners during the pandemic and volunteer days off.
While hotels work to ramp up hiring efforts, travel continues to take flight as more Americans become fully vaccinated and take advantage of summer vacation time. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) last week screened more than 2 million travelers at airports – the highest number since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020. And the surge in travel could make it difficult for employees to keep up with demand amid shortages.
More than half of U.S. adults, 55%, said they were planning to stay at least one night at a hotel this summer, and the percentage of consumers who said they typically stay at hotels during summer travel season rose to 59%, according to market research firm Morning Consult.