Covid 19 Delta outbreak: Marriott warns of ‘fight for talent’ as hotels struggle to find staff

Marriott’s chief executive has warned that the company is in a “fight for talent” as it tries to recruit 10,000 staff to its US hotels to keep pace with a sharp rebound in bookings.

Tony Capuano, who took over after the death in February of his predecessor Arne Sorenson, said pandemic redundancies had “rattled” workers’ confidence in the travel and tourism sector, prompting acute staff shortages.

“We’ve got to do a consistent job of sharing the narrative that it is in fact an industry segment where incredible careers can be built,” he told the Financial Times. “The ability to tell that story around the globe is more important in the face of this fight for talent than it has ever been.”

Marriott, the world’s largest hotel company, has about 10,000 vacancies at its 600 managed hotels across the US.

Capuano said the challenge was “particularly acute” in states such as Florida, one of the markets that has bounced back fastest from the pandemic thanks to soaring demand for resort holidays.

Covid-19 infections have surged in the state during the peak summer months of July and August. At the end of August Florida’s seven-day rolling average was more than 20,900 new cases per day.

Buoyed by pent-up demand for holidays and the strength of the domestic market, the US hotel industry had its best month ever in terms of revenues and room rates in July, according to data provider STR.

But hotels and restaurants have had to cut opening hours and services, with as many as a fifth of hospitality staff globally by some estimates having permanently left the industry as the volatility of lockdowns pushed them to seek more stable jobs.

Marriott was forced to furlough tens of thousands of its hotel staff and cut its corporate headcount by 17 per cent in September last year.

But Capuano said the company was now “actively and aggressively hiring”, offering one-off incentives and benefits, with the recruitment focused on markets where demand had recovered.

Marriott operates more than 7,300 hotels worldwide.

Executives across the industry have warned that staff shortages will push up wages as companies fight over the small supply of labour.

But for Dimitris Manikis, president of Europe, Middle East and Africa for Wyndham Hotels, higher pay alone will not entice people to remain in the industry.

“The reality is that already it’s not just about wages,” he said. “It’s about an attractive package. You need to be flexible, you need to provide excitement for people to stay and you need to find purpose.”

Increased use of technology has fuelled fears among former staff looking to return that the digitisation of check-in and food ordering could make their jobs redundant in the long term.

Robin Rossman, managing director of STR, said that “slowly, over time, you will have less and fewer people running a hotel as you can digitise it”, allowing companies to save on staffing costs.

Capuano said Marriott was “always looking for ways to enhance the efficiency of our operations”, but that while it had found “some opportunities to rightsize our staffing models”, its pipeline of 500,000 rooms meant it would still be creating jobs for hundreds of staff.

Written by: Alice Hancock

© Financial Times

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