Hotels say goodbye to daily room cleanings and hello to robots as workers stay scarce

This holiday season at the Garden City Hotel on Long Island, Merle Ayers is feeling especially grateful for the Whiz.

At two feet tall and 66 pounds, the powerful robot vacuum doesn’t mind working late into the night after the parties are over. The Whiz doesn’t care that it’s the holidays. It doesn’t even need a day off.

Travel is back but hotel staff are not

Colin has noticed that his workers are seeking more flexibility in their jobs. One of his valet parking attendants, who had been working for him for a long time, mentioned that he no longer wanted to work in the evenings. This was because during the early stages of the pandemic, when business slowed down significantly, the attendant had gotten used to having dinner with his family every night. In response, Colin has made an effort to be accommodating and flexible with both his current and new employees.

Bring your child to work every day

Despite receiving some complaints, the Patels report that most of their guests are understanding of their staffing situation. In order to retain their current employees, the couple has implemented measures such as providing shorter shifts and allowing staff to bring their children to work, which two of them are currently doing. According to Deepak Patel, these accommodations benefit both the staff and the business, as a shortage of staff can lead to problems for the hotel. He notes that it is important to keep skilled and reliable workers, as the hotel cannot afford to lose them.

Economic and demographic trends mean competition for workers is high

According to Zhao, there are several factors contributing to the current labor shortage in the United States. One of these is the decline in legal immigration during the Trump years and the pandemic. Additionally, the population is aging and becoming more educated, which is a positive development but also means that the pool of workers without a college degree is shrinking, affecting industries such as manufacturing and leisure and hospitality.

Without workers, hotels are contemplating more automation

He’s also contemplating a high-tech kiosk that would sit just inside the entrance. When a guests approaches, a live person would appear on the screen — outsourced somewhere, Patel says. That person would be able to collect payment, check in the guest, make keys, even make a room change.

Maintaining an A+ experience with a smaller staff

Still, he has to find some ways to cope with lower levels of staffing. He is planning to transition to remote registration, allowing guests to bypass the front desk and go right to their rooms. But he worries about losing the human touch.

“How do you exhibit an aura of welcome and express gratitude? I don’t think digital notes saying ‘Thank you for staying here’ create a feeling of warmth,” he says.

He’s intent on finding a balance between efficiency and the human touch.