SC hotels see promising season, but need more staff to match tourism

Source: Live 5
Updated: Apr. 29, 2021 at 7:36 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Hotels are bracing for a busy summer, but the lasting impact of the pandemic has many still trying to find the staff they need to keep up.

Daniel Blumenstock, the director of Lowcountry Hotels, said leisure travelers have returned to the Palmetto State in full force.

“We’re probably 1,000-something percent ahead of last year. It’s a night and day difference,” Blumenstock said.

He, like many in hospitality are looking for the staff to keep up with the number of people returning.

“We have jobs available in our industry whether it’s hotels, whether it’s restaurants, whether it’s tours and attractions the good news is we have jobs that are available right now,” Blumenstock said.

College of Charleston’s Office of Tourism Analysis Director Daniel Guttentag said just in the past six weeks, hotels have seen around 90 percent of their 2019 numbers during the week, and nearly identical numbers of bookings over the weekends as pre-pandemic business.

He says much of visitors’ return stems from national vaccine efforts.

“There’s all this pent-up demand, you know, it’s the ‘vaccinations’ and everybody is just desperate to get out,” Guttentag said. “I don’t think there’s any reason to doubt that we have a really strong summer ahead of us.”

But after more than 20,000 hotel and restaurant jobs were lost due to the pandemic last spring, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, many of those workers are not returning to their old positions.

“There’s just a whole lot of demand and not quite the supply. Why are there not enough workers perhaps? there’s a whole confluence of reasons,” Guttentag said.

He said staffing shortages in hotels are from a mixture of things, from new jobs employees found outside the hotel business, to others who could still have health concerns or are relying on unemployment programs.

“So when you combine all these factors you end up with this whole cocktail of reasons that are sort of like creating these headwinds to the industry as it goes out and tries to sort of re-staff for what’s undoubtedly going to be a very busy summer,” Guttentag said.

Something hotel groups across the country are paying attention to right now is new legislation introduced specifically targeted at helping hotels hire more people, it’s called the Save Hotel Jobs Act.

The act would give hotels payroll grants for payroll and benefits expenses for their workers.

Blumenstock said for him, it’s not federal money he needs to hire people, but rather the interest by people to return to the business.

“That act is talking about trying to help those workers that don’t have a job to go back to,” Blumenstock said. “We have jobs to come back to, we have the positions open now. In fact, there may be people from other industries that have never been in hospitality, this be a great time for them to be able to get into that.”

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