This past year we traveled throughout most of the U.S. Everywhere we went, we experienced a significant change in service level due to staffing shortages. From housekeeping staff where hotels no longer service your room during your stay to restaurant closures to lack of rental cars or Uber drivers and unprecedented flight cancellations this holiday season.
There is not one day where staffing shortages is not addressed in the press. These are just a few examples of what I read this past month:
- “The World Trade and Tourism Council (WTTC) has revealed that the sectors in the United States have suffered labor decline of 700,000 during this year.”
- “Countries in most of Europe are currently experiencing an array of labor shortages that are placing a significant strain on many industries.”
- “Asia-Pacific tourism industry left reeling from job losses, deterioration in work quality and shifts towards increased informality.”
- “Africa is facing a severe employment crisis. If nothing is done to find a solution, it could get much worse in the not-too-distant future.”
- “Rapid tourism growth in the Gulf means the hospitality sector may face a shortage of well-trained staff in the years to come.”
- “In addition, the global tourism body report shows that over 62 million travel and tourism sector jobs got lost globally due to the COVID-19 ongoing pandemic.”
Weak job reports for the hospitality, restaurant, and leisure sectors is a red flag for planners. These companies added just 23,000 jobs nationwide in November, and nearly one in 10 jobs across the industry that existed at the start of the pandemic have still not returned. Given this situation, planners should not only ask about anticipated levels and hours of operation for a host property but find other strategies to ensure their program can go on.
A recent article in Meetingnet suggested including “service levels” in your contract. However, it is hard to quantify and determine damages if the hotel isn’t in compliance because you can’t control whether the property can hire people in the particular market or, for that matter, train them sufficiently. Another approach suggested in that article “is to have the meeting property and event host agree on a service-satisfaction survey completed by attendees.” Finding out about restaurants and other services within walking distance of the hotel would be a brilliant idea too.
Wherever your meeting brings you, it would be wise to seek the help of professionals in the destination. Engaging a DMC (Destination Management Company) can fill the void with meeting planning staff short-handed. Resources at both the planner and supplier levels are tight right now. With reduced staffing, meeting planners are concerned if vendors can still deliver excellent programs. This is where a DMC steps in. DMC’s are experts at vetting the vendors in a local destination and securing and bringing together a group of local vendors and staff to put on a program. They’ll help you navigate a foreign destination. Having a good DMC in your corner will save you time on vetting numerous activity companies, restaurants, entertainment, transportation, and of course, any language barriers you would otherwise face. DMC’s are more crucial than ever since the landscape has changed so much, and the personnel at the hotel that you might have called for the past 10, 15 years might no longer be employed by the property. What everyone has known about a city is changing dramatically. Some fantastic venues that were perfect options in the past may no longer exist in 2022. This is why the DMC has a crucial part in supporting meeting planners and knowing what is happening.
To hire a DMC, you may consult the Association of Destination Management Executives (ADME, a premier resource for education, standards, and practices for the DMC industry). ADME manages a directory of all its members by region, which provides a great place to start your search.