Cap on number of rooms due to lack of housekeeping, reception staff

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State borders are open and traveler confidence is increasing, so it makes sense that some hotels or resorts are harder to get into, right?

But there’s another less obvious reason why you might not be able to stay at your dream lockdown hotel.

A severe shortage of hospitality and, more importantly, housekeeping staff, has prevented many hotels and resorts from opening to full capacity.

“No hotel in the city would be operating at full capacity at this time,” said Dean Long, chief executive of the Accommodation Association of Australia. He says that when a hotel says they are fully occupied, they are telling the truth. But hotels may have been forced to artificially reduce capacity to ensure rooms are adequately serviced. Hotels need a number of housekeeping staff to meet health and safety rules – so keeping rooms open with significantly reduced cleaning staff is not an option.

The situation is so dire that some well-known resorts and hotels are operating with 40% fewer occupied rooms than before the pandemic, Long said. This forced ceiling on the rooms could possibly drive up the prices.

“You can’t just open rooms without cleaners. Hotels and resorts around the world just can’t keep up with the demand.”

And it’s no wonder. The pandemic has decimated Australia’s full-time hospitality workforce, which once numbered 113,000, with the number of jobs falling to 30,000. Even now, they’re only approaching 47,000. .

Many “lost” workers have found alternative employment in fields such as retail after being denied JobKeeper. Another vital percentage were foreign nationals or students who have returned overseas or are stuck here with their visas dictating limited working hours.

The situation has led the hospitality industry to submit applications to Australia’s Skilled Migration Survey Program for visa changes to allow international students, for example, to work longer hours in the hospitality industry. , in the same way that adjustments have been made to fruit picker visas.

Leanne Harwood, Managing Director of IHG Hotels & Resorts, said: “At a time when business is needed more than ever, some of our regional hotels and resorts have had to limit the number of rooms available.”

Hotels are not the only ones to suffer. Travel company AAT Kings chief executive Matt Fuller said staffing shortages have led to tours being re-routed or replaced due to room availability, just as people have become confident about travel .

“Demand is at the bursting point and we’re still finding a way to overcome that, but running this business has never been more complex,” Fuller said.

He said immediate changes to visas for foreign nationals already in the country would help ease the situation.

Leanne Harwood says COVID-19 has led to an exodus of great talent: “We need great people to come and work in hotels and we need them now.”

But incentives such as airfare, accommodation or meal packages and higher salaries have failed to make up the shortfall, especially in remote areas – even though these places feature on many lists of buckets.

Dean Long says the shortage is complex.

“Australians just aren’t used to thinking they’re in housekeeping or hospitality long term,” he said.

And Mr Long is not sure the Australia-New Zealand bubble will help. While some Australians could be recruited from New Zealand’s ski resorts, he doubts there’s much mutual acceptance in hospitality jobs here, even if the salaries are higher.

“Unlike the United States, where people move for college or work, Australians and New Zealanders tend to stay close to family and social networks. They are unlikely to move for long. long periods, unless it’s for six figures,” he said.

Former long-haul flight attendant Steven Watkins, 44, hopes that is not the case. His employer, Daintree Ecolodge in far north Queensland, has just advertised in New Zealand for staff.

Watkins, who left Virgin Australia last year after 12 years in the industry, was working at another Queensland resort when he was sued by his current employer, who needed staff with his skills. Her “versatile” role includes recruiting and training staff, reception, catering and housekeeping.

“I wasn’t too interested but Rena [general manager] expanded the role, we negotiated and I ended up saying yes,” Watkins said.

He even persuaded two former colleagues from the airline to join him, but the staff remains an issue.

“We’re lucky that the squad we have is really covering up and our reviews are very good considering our reduced squad,” he said. “Some of the bigger stations here are really struggling.”

He says the interpersonal and problem-solving skills of airline crews are ideal for resorts and hotels.

“I trained the new housekeeping team to check and cross-check the rooms before I finished – just like the plane,” he joked.

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