Hotel Leaders in Europe Tackle Staffing Challenges with Outsourcing, Training, Tech

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MADRID — Amid continued labor challenges in Europe and across the world, hotel industry leaders say limited staff does not have to mean limited guest experience.

Speaking on a CEO panel at the Atlantic Ocean Hotel Investors’ Summit titled “Are employees now an asset or a liability?” Ramón Aragonés Marín, CEO of NH Hotel Group, said fully staffing a hotel has become impossible in many cases due to a smaller labor pool and wage pressures.

“Take this hotel as an example,” Aragonés Marín said, referring to the conference’s host hotel, the NH Eurobuilding Madrid. “It has a lot of banquet business, so it cannot possibly be full-time staff. One-hundred percent staffing is impossible due to the cost, so you must work with outsourcing.”

He added that staffing in general will become even more of a migraine for hoteliers in 2023, due in large part to a highly successful 2022 for the hotel industry.

“Staffing is our main issue. Occupancy is increasing, and we have more hotels, but staffing problems remain the same,” he said.

Panelists said intelligent strategies can foster both staffing camaraderie and the guest experience.

María Rosa Barcia Garzolini, asset manager at GMA Corporate, said food and beverage is one hotel department where outsourcing is becoming critical.

“You have to analyze the value of each component. Outsourcing can be the perfect solution to both increase rent to the operator and security for staff [employment],” she said.

Hubert Viriot, CEO of Yotel, said technology and digital solutions can help to free up staff for the most critical guest-facing roles.

“It allows staff to perform multiple roles, which is enjoyable, and it allows us hotel guys to do what hotels are supposed to do — fill up rooms and increase experiences,” he said.

Viriot said the industry also must take more risks with staffing and give younger employees more responsibility than ever before.

“For us, that is not risk but opportunity. Give a 25-year-old the general management of a hotel,” he said, noting that Yotel‘s portfolio has doubled during the past few turbulent years, from approximately 3,500 to 6,000 rooms.

Fabien Mutinelli, director of asset management, Europe and Americas, at Katara Hospitality Europe, said staffing challenges are more acute in the higher-priced segments of the hotel industry.

“Our hotels are mostly luxury, and with [hotel management agreements]. Despite a shortage of staff, down 25% to 30%, we’ve seen historical levels of [average daily rate],” he said.

He added that at the hotels in his company’s portfolio, managers are being very cautious with expenses in order to maintain staffing levels.

GMA Corporate’s Barcia Garzolini said great care must also be taken to train staff to be productive.

“We are strict with operators in their training of staff and in staff productivity, as we are the ones who have put in the [capital expenditure],” she said.

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