Solving the staffing crisis within the hospitality industry

 Louise Goldsmith, Head of Marketing, SoftBank Robotics EMEA talks about the challenges faced by the hospitality industry in solving the current staffing crisis. 

The Covid pandemic has been catastrophic for many industries.  But arguably none more so than the hospitality industry.   

The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) reported that 3.6 million jobs in the EU have been lost since the outbreak of the COVID pandemic. This figure would be much higher without job protection schemes implemented in most EU Member States.  

There is a severe shortage of workers that are available to fill open positions in hotels, restaurants, and the service industry in general.  In fact, according to a recent report on the state of hiring in the hospitality industry, there were 190,000 vacant positions from January - March, 2022* - a 47% year on year increase. This quite clearly has a negative effect on how these hotels and restaurants operate, let alone the experience they are therefore able to afford to their guests.   

There are a multitude of factors leading to high vacancy rates. At the end of pandemic many workers moved homes, and did not return to the countries that they had once settled in.  There were also those who found jobs that were in other industries, or that included some element of home working rather than constantly customer facing. A number of workers also did not return to jobs that were furloughed.  

It is no secret that the airline industry is just one that has been hugely affected by the lack of staffing resource, with a recent spate of flight and holiday cancellations in.  At the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, airports and airlines made roughly 191,000 European aviation workers redundant. This increased uncertainly with holiday operators and airlines has pushed consumers to wait until the last minute to make bookings, adding pressure to an already overwhelmed hospitality industry.  This also makes it extremely difficult to plan in staffing terms.  

Moreover there is also more pressure put on current hospitality employees than ever before, and the strain is beginning to show.  Travel and Tourism patterns and practices have changed due to the pandemic, showing a tendency for people to travel to destinations closer to home, with more domestic travel or short haul trips, and increased concerns about safety and hygiene. 

But how can the hospitality industry bounce back as quickly as it needs to without an immediate solution to their problems?   

Well to combat this, digital trends have been emerging in the hospitality industry since the start of the pandemic. The industry must continue to build digital skills, implement digital solutions, build sustainable infrastructure, and introduce this to both front and back end processes within businesses. This includes utilising robotics. 

Various industries have long used robotics solutions to help with jobs that humans are unable to complete. From robotic arms to battlefield robots, that can help secure war zones.  But there is mounting evidence that working with a robot can increase corporate productivity, improving levels of guest happiness and aid in customer service. 

There is now a cobotic solution that can work alongside cleaning teams to help make spaces cleaner, happier, and healthier. The Whiz autonomous vacuum cleaner. Whiz does the tedious vacuuming chores so that housekeepers and cleaners can focus on other areas that need attention.  This could be critical in a market where they cannot find enough staff. 

The Keenbot tray delivery robots similarly work with kitchen and front of house staff to deliver food and beverages from the kitchen to the dining area, freeing up the waiters and waitresses to focus on giving guests the best possible service. This can increase service efficiency and improve the quality of the guest experience, whilst also ensuring the restaurant floor areas are fully manned with human staff for interaction with guests.  

It is obvious that there is still a long way to go before the hospitality sector gets back to its pre-pandemic staffing and consumer levels, but cobotics offers a means of bridging that gap while also fostering healthier, better vacation and customer experiences. 

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