Some hoteliers see benefits as “quick fixes” to employment problems
Many industries have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, but this shock has been particularly felt in the hospitality industry.
The American Hotel & Lodging Association shared an economic analysis from Oxford which claims the pandemic has wiped out the past 10 years of growth in the US hotel industry.
Colorado lost 13,192 hospitality and leisure jobs in 2020 and is expected to lose another 7,864 by the end of this year, according to the Oxford study released in February.
Hiring bonuses have been used in some market areas to attract potential employees into the hospitality and leisure industry, but hotels in Durango, for the most part, do not pursue this option.
Tori Ossola, general manager of the Strater Hotel, said hiring bonuses were a management option being considered, but the hotel ultimately chose not to use them.
âWe have discussed this with our management team,â said Ossola. âWe chose not to do this because we believe we would like to create a lasting employee here at Strater. We believe that some of those companies that hire (use) quick hiring bonuses. “
Ossola said she believes when staffing levels eventually return to normal pre-pandemic levels, people successfully hired with the one-time incentive of login bonuses will be the first to leave. At the Strater Hotel, management is keen to hire employees who are committed to the long term, she said.
“I believe it is true, but I am not sure,” Ossola said. âSo Strater’s approach has been a little different in that we prefer to hire at a slightly higher rate. We don’t pay anybody minimum wage, we decided to raise that minimum wage to a higher wage and then do our 90 day exams with good performance and extra incentive at this point. “
The Strater Hotel lost about 20 employees, not counting about 20 employees who were made redundant when the hotel lost its lease with the Henry Strater Theater.
âIt basically wiped out an entire department from the Strater hotel,â Ossola said. â… We lost our entire banqueting division following the loss of this theater. “
Before the pandemic, the hotel employed 130 to 150 people during the summer, its busiest season each year.
The loss of the banquet staff alone would have reduced its staff to 110-130 people, but as workers have become more difficult to hire, it is currently operating with a staff of around 95.
Ossola said staff at the Strater Hotel have also been affected by the housing crisis in Durango, where rents are skyrocketing.
âIt’s also a key factor here,â Ossola said. âI think there is so much going on that people don’t come back to our workforce in the roles we’ve always had. I think accommodation is definitely something to consider. I think our university students are coming back and we’ve certainly seen a lot more applications as a result of this which is great news so we’re excited about that.
Despite the employment decline of around 27% from pre-pandemic levels at the Strater Hotel, Ossola remains confident and optimistic for the future.
âThe Strater is 130 years old,â she said. “This is our second pandemic and we are not going to close because of it.”
Adventure Inn co-owner and manager Jordan Foster shared similar sentiments about hiring bonuses, except to say that hiring bonuses were never really factored in.
Foster said the Adventure Inn has a small, loyal team, and although the hotel had staff issues earlier in the pandemic, “we’re not trying to bribe people to come to work.”
“We know that unemployment (benefits) is running out and now people are going to start to get a little more desperate,” Foster said. âBut it was never our thing. If people need an incentive to work, other than, you know, a good salary? Hiring Bonuses – What’s Stopping Them From Leaving Right After Being Hired? I’m sure there is a stipulation to it, but it has never been on our radar as an idea. “
The DoubleTree Hotel in Durango has an exterior sign advertising hiring bonuses at a rate of $ 400. Efforts to reach general manager Zach Burns were unsuccessful.
However, DoubleTree employee Iresa Hazard offered her perspective:
âI don’t think the hiring bonuses are working, in my opinion,â Hazard said. âAnd I’m pretty sure we’re not the only place. It seems that it is difficult to get new employees in general at the moment.
The Herald contacted several other hotels and motels in the Durango region, none of which offered hiring bonuses to new employees. Properties contacted included the Comfort Inn & Suites, Fairfield Inn & Suites, Best Western Inn & Suites, and Caboose Motel.