With the hotel occupancy rate expected to surge to pre-pandemic levels, the Fourth of July should be a day of celebration for the US hospitality industry. Though major chains are packing in the punters, they’re coming up short in terms of the all-important bellhops, barkeeps and people to turn over the beds. Many markets face similar challenges but these labour travails are particularly acute in the US: 82 per cent of the country’s hotels report being understaffed and about a quarter severely so. In Southern California, more than 15,000 hospitality workers are poised to strike in what could be the biggest hotel walkout in American history.
The strikers are demanding better pay and contracts that give them secure hours on the job. Too many US hotels have settled for a business model in which housekeeping staff are only brought in as they’re needed. Now, when I travel around the country, I often have to tell front-desk staff to freshen up my room days in advance. This makes little sense when hotels are competing to retain staff; for the guest, it hardly leaves an impression of care and hospitality.
I recently stayed at a hotel on the US east coast where the general manager had been in place since it opened a decade ago and had kept many of the original staff. One loyal guest told me that, for him, part of what kept him returning was that the staff knew who he was – from housekeeping to the concierge. Everyone knew his favourite drink and to always hold a table for him on the first night. That’s the secret to a warm welcome.
Christopher Lord is Monocle’s US editor. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.