Navigating Today’s Persistent Labor Shortages in Hospitality

How technology can help the hospitality industry traverse these turbulent waters and emerge stronger and more resilient than ever.

By John Smallwood, President of Travel Outlook
February 2024

In the dynamic hospitality industry, where guest satisfaction reigns supreme, the persistent challenge of staffing shortages has reached a critical juncture. According to a recent survey by the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA), a staggering 67% of hotels are grappling with staffing shortages. This scarcity of personnel is not merely an inconvenience; it is a significant impediment to the industry’s seamless operation.

Despite concerted efforts by hoteliers to entice workers with increased wages and a host of incentives, many find themselves unable to fill open positions. In a bid to attract and retain talent, 82% of respondents have raised wages to record highs, with the average hitting $23.91 per hour as of December 2023. Moreover, nearly six in ten hotels are offering greater flexibility with hours, and one-third have expanded benefits. Yet, despite these measures, 72% of surveyed hotels still struggle to find suitable candidates to fill their vacancies.

In the face of such significant labor shortages, hotels must look to alternative solutions to address staffing issues, including embracing modern technology.

Alarming Staffing Needs

The impact of these shortages reverberates throughout the industry posing a significant challenge to maintain the standards expected by hotel guests. While there has been some improvement since May 2023, when 82% of hotels reported staffing shortages, the situation remains dire. Respondents are currently grappling with an average of nine vacant positions per property, highlighting the persistent struggle to recruit and retain staff. With over 70,000 hotel jobs currently available nationwide, the ramifications of these labor shortages cannot be overstated.

Revolutionary Conversational AI Solutions to Alleviate Strain

In every corner of the industry, technology is helping hoteliers break barriers and challenge conventions. And conversational AI is making its mark providing a new option for effective and consistent customer service. With today’s staffing shortages, innovative conversational AI solutions are emerging to help hotels handle their day-to-day operations, particularly the hotel’s voice channel.

Travel Outlook is transforming voice channel operations in the hospitality industry with the leading AI-powered tech Annette, The Virtual Hotel Agent (Annette). This award-winning technology is revolutionizing customer service by providing efficient and personalized assistance to guests, thereby reducing the burden on limited staff resources.

Many of the calls a hotel front desk receives are repetitive and time-consuming. They are simple requests asking routine questions about check out times, luggage handling, the breakfast location and hours, and general travel information. These types of questions are ripe for the effective implementation of guest-led conversational AI.

Equipped with advanced natural language processing capabilities, Annette handles a wide range of inquiries and tasks autonomously. She correctly understands the guest’s question or query 97% of time, and can transfer callers, send follow-up texts, and answer property-related inquiries. From answering frequently asked questions to providing local recommendations, Annette enhances the guest experience while allowing hotel staff to focus on high-priority tasks rather than man the phone lines.

Addressing Real Customer Pain Points

In an era when seamless communication is crucial for business success, Travel Outlook’s omnichannel telephony services offer a consistent and unified communication experience that revolutionizes the way hotels communicate with their guests.

The omnichannel telephony was developed to fit the unique requirements of hotels in today’s fast-paced business environment, so hotels can stay ahead of their competitors. Hoteliers can now engage with their guests at an unprecedented level with the omnichannel system, which combines traditional telephony and modern communication methods into one, cohesive platform.

With omnichannel software, hoteliers can meet guests on their terms and fulfill their needs faster and easier than ever, with software adaptable to today’s ever-changing needs. Using omnichannel telephony, hotels can create smart, flexible, and satisfying customer interactions that speak to the pain points hotel guests experience every single day.

In conclusion, the hospitality industry’s struggle with labor shortages underscores the urgent need for innovative solutions that address current labor shortage issues while also providing innovative avenues for change for the hospitality industry at large.

While challenges persist, opportunities abound for both hoteliers and job seekers alike. By embracing technology, the hospitality industry can navigate these turbulent waters and emerge stronger and more resilient than ever before.

Through groundbreaking solutions like Annette, The Virtual Hotel Agent, stakeholders can work together to overcome the current staffing crisis and ensure the continued success of the hospitality industry in 2024 and beyond.

Looking for ways to address hiring and staffing challenges and control front desk labor expenses?

 Learn more about Annette™, the first AI-powered, virtual agent dedicated to hotel guest service.