By Hadassa Kalatizadeh
New York City’s ailing hotel industry is currently employing only half the number of workers compared to pre-pandemic times. Despite this, where they do need help, hotels are having trouble filling positions.
As reported by Crain’s NY, last month there were 24,000 jobs in New York City’s accommodation sector, down from 52,300 in February 2020 before the pandemic. NYC & Company, the city’s tourism agency, had projected that in 2021 the city would host some 36 million tourists, compared with 66.6 million in 2019, or just 22.3 million tourists in 2020.
Still, currently roughly half of NYC hoteliers say they are having a hard time hiring non-managerial staff, and 44 percent report being stumped when trying to recruit mangers, as per a Fodors travel survey.
The labor shortage in NY is largely being offset by lackluster demand and stays. In December, occupancy reached a post-pandemic high of 72 percent for the holidays, which is still significantly lower than the 88 percent recorded for Decembers 2018 and 2019, as per STR, which tracks the industry.
The Four Seasons Hotel New York Downtown opened back up in late 2020, which was considerably earlier than most other hotels. Laid-off workers were still getting some supplemental funds from the White House at the time, plus New York unemployment insurance payments. Unionized workers also were still getting their health insurance coverage paid by employers. The hotel says that it didn’t have trouble getting staffers back, at the time. “Because it was early, no one tried to look for work anywhere else,” said the hotel’s general manager Thomas Carreras. He says he is now content with 180 employees, though the pre-pandemic number of employees was 220. The hotel is one of the few that did not cut down on services such as dining and housekeeping.
Since then, however, as the other hotels started to open back up, recruiting staff has become a challenge for the hospitality industry. Other hotels were even trying to recruit his staff, Carreras told Crain’s. He added that subsequently there was backlash from the labor force in response to the vaccine mandate. “People started going to states like Florida,” or other places that had more lenient policies, he said. Still others reconsidered their positions during the nine months at home, some opting to move somewhere with a lower cost of living or warmer climate, Carreras said.