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Hotels get creative as the hospitality labor market remains tight

Lily Jamali Sep 4, 2023
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One of the bars at San Diego's LaFayette Hotel and Club. The hotel rushed to staff up before its grand opening and was able to hire 140 workers. Courtesy the LaFayette Hotel

Hotels get creative as the hospitality labor market remains tight

Lily Jamali Sep 4, 2023
Heard on:
One of the bars at San Diego's LaFayette Hotel and Club. The hotel rushed to staff up before its grand opening and was able to hire 140 workers. Courtesy the LaFayette Hotel
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One takeaway from the national jobs report that came out last week is that the recent hiring frenzy is cooling off.  

But there remain key pockets of growth in the labor market, such as leisure and hospitality. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says employment in the sector continued to trend higher in August. 

So how are employers in the hotel biz trying to gain an edge in finding workers?

In July, when Arsalun Tafazoli prepared to open the newly restored LaFayette Hotel and Club in San Diego, his company, CH Projects, had about four weeks to staff up. 

“We did all of it. We did fairs, friends, social media, local media,” he said. “On every channel that we had at our disposal, we just put it out there.”

Reclining chairs sit under striped umbrellas near a poolside.
The pool at the LaFayette Hotel. Part of the hotel’s hiring pitch was “making an amenity for San Diego.” (Courtesy the LaFayette Hotel)

The historic hotel — once frequented by Hollywood stars — has two restaurants and three bars (with more set to open soon), plus a bowling alley and a pool.  

Tafazoli was able to hire 140 people to put everything in place by the grand opening. Part of the hiring pitch was about the goal of creating an attraction — and not just for out-of-town guests, but “basically making an amenity for San Diego and hopefully have people within the city that would support this place,” he said.

That kind of messaging matters to members of Gen Z, whom leisure and hospitality employers are keen to hire, according to University of Central Florida tourism professor Stephen Pratt. 

On top of good wages and benefits, Pratt said that in a competitive labor market, some employers are differentiating themselves by conveying a bigger purpose: “to be an important part of the community, not just someone who’s out there to exploit or extract as much cheap labor as possible.”

The stakes are high. Lodging can make up as much as 70% of vacation spending, Pratt said.

The labor market in leisure and hospitality is still tight — and not just for hotels, said Alex Susskind of Cornell’s Nolan School of Hotel Administration.

“It’s just been a very, very slow recovery, getting people to want to go back to those kinds of jobs in the same way that they did before the pandemic,” he said.

Slow — but if the data’s any guide, getting better.  

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