Tips for Addressing the U.S. Travel & Tourism Labor Shortfall

The labor market in travel and tourism continues to be competitive, which means that to hire and retain top talent, employers need to be creative and meet the needs of candidates who have several employment options in the New Year and beyond.

A new analysis of staff shortages by the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), which represents the global private Travel & Tourism sector, reveals the sector realized a U.S. labor shortfall of almost 700,000 workers during 2021. According to the report, the outlook for 2022 is only slightly more positive, with approximately 480,000 direct U.S. Travel & Tourism jobs, or one in 13 positions, predicted to go unfilled next year. Now more than ever, working with a firm like Hutchinson Consulting, which can connect you with qualified candidates and help you craft compelling offers, is vital to the success of your business.

The figures from WTTC, produced in partnership with Oxford Economics, for the first time analyzed staff shortages across the U.S. and other major Travel & Tourism markets including the UK, Spain, France, Italy, and Portugal, focusing on the period between July and December 2021 and 2022. 

As unemployment rates decrease and travel demand rises, Travel & Tourism businesses have been left struggling to fill available job vacancies. The report details demand for U.S. Travel & Tourism jobs, tallying 6.6 million open positions during the second half of 2021, with labor shortages projected at 690,000, equating to one in nine unfilled vacancies, or a shortfall of 11%.

According to officials at WTTC, continued worker shortages in the sector could significantly hamper Travel & Tourism recovery in the U.S., as well as slow the eagerly anticipated return of the industry’s robust economic impact in communities across the country. WTTC has developed solutions for governments and businesses to address the issue.

“The U.S. economic recovery could be put in serious jeopardy if we don’t have enough people to fill these jobs as travelers return,” says Julia Simpson, WTTC President and CEO. “If we cannot fill these vacancies, it could seriously threaten the survival of Travel & Tourism businesses across the U.S. Companies dependent on tourism have been hanging on for the upside; this is just another blow that many may not survive.”

The global tourism body also warns reinstating damaging travel restrictions, such as the recent measures aimed at curbing the spread of the new COVID-19 variant, do not stop the spread of the virus and only damage livelihoods.

WTTC Recommends Solutions

WTTC’s report outlines recommendations for governments and businesses to tackle the alarming Travel & Tourism labor shortage crisis, recognizing the impact of furlough schemes.

These include facilitating labor mobility and remote working, providing safety nets, upskilling and reskilling the workforce and retaining talent, and creating and promoting education and apprenticeships.

Global Labor Outlook in The Sector

WTTC’s recent report revealed the devastating impact COVID-19 has had on the Travel & Tourism sector with 62 million jobs lost globally. However, the proactive measures and actions by many governments enabled the sector to save millions of jobs and livelihoods at risk through various job retention schemes.

In 2021 as the demand for travel began to strengthen in line with the easing of restrictions and the recovering domestic market, the labor supply has been unable to match the rising labor demand, particularly during the second half of the year. All countries—across the UK, Spain, France, Italy and Portugal in addition to the U.S.—showed significant staff shortages, with employment demand starting to outstrip the available labor supply.

The global tourism body says staff shortages represent a key issue for the global Travel & Tourism sector, and while issues around supply and demand are set to gradually adjust during 2022, the problem is likely to remain.

The sector’s recovery and economies around the world depend on businesses and governments being able to solve this critical issue to meet the returning demand for travel.

According to a recent report from Wage Insight, created in partnership with Hutchinson Consulting, certain salary trends are likely contributing to the problem.

“The industry, as a whole, is facing talent shortages, and much of that can be attributed to the realizations many people had over the course of pandemic shutdowns,” says Hutchinson Consulting partner Michael Tompkins. “Employees want to be fairly compensated for their work, and they have also realized the importance of work-life balance, something not traditionally a priority in hospitality. If we want to keep talented people within our industry and meet the growing demand, changes need to be made.”

Tompkins reports that 2021 has been the second-most-successful year for Hutchinson Consulting in its nearly 20-year history. He points out that the majority of this business comes from clients that have evolved to meet the expectations of today’s talent. “We are placing a record number of employees in their dream roles. However, we are mostly placing them with companies that are willing to listen to our guidance and offer exceptional compensation packages that build work-life balance into offers,” he says. “While we only place top talent, the companies that realize the relationship is reciprocal not only attract these candidates, but they ensure those placements stick and that they maximize that individual’s potential long-term contributions. Clients who come to us offering lower-than-average salaries, limited benefits, and with unrealistic expectations around hours and work-life balance are not having the same success finding candidates they may have had in the past. Even the promise of working with storied brands and in beautiful locations now seems to come second to these more basic variables.”

Tompkins says these results should be a call to arms for the hospitality industry, and he hopes the industry will begin to rethink some of its dated practices and instead come up with creative ways to compensate talented candidates, both financially and with other benefits. “If we want to keep them—and recruit new talent into our industry—we have to change the narrative,” he says.

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