‘Hired in 24 hours’: Top hotels in Europe snap up unskilled staff to fill gap left by bottlenecks

Big European hotel chains are hiring staff with no experience or even a CV, as executives admit years of being underpaid have pushed them back.

That Hotels can not meet now Travel demand after the pandemic.

Thousands of workers left the hospitality industry at the time international travel stopped during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many chose not to return, finding better-paying employment elsewhere, leaving hoteliers with a desperate shortage.

Europe’s biggest hotel chain, Accor, is conducting pilot initiatives to hire people who haven’t worked in the industry before, chief executive Sebastien Bazin said in an interview with Reuters at the Qatar Economic Forum last month.

Accor, which operates brands like Mercure, ibis and Fairmont in over 110 countries, needs 35,000 employees worldwide, he said.

“We tried it 10 days ago in Lyon and Bordeaux and this weekend we’ll have people with no CV and no previous work experience interviewed and they’ll be hired within 24 hours,” Bazin said.

Accor is filling short-term positions in France with young people and migrants while restricting services.

“They are students, people from North Africa,” said Bazin. “And basically restaurants close for lunch or (open) only five days a week. There is no other solution.”

The new recruits receive six hours of training and learn on the job, he said.

The shortage of staff is particularly pressing in Spain and Portugal, where tourism accounted for 13 and 15 percent of economic output respectively before the pandemic.

Hoteliers there offer higher wages, free accommodation and perks such as premiums and health insurance.

“Many employees have decided to move to other sectors, so we are starting an industry from scratch and we have to fight for talent,” Melia CEO Gabriel Escarrer told reporters in Madrid.

Recently, to attract employees, his company provided accommodation, sometimes in hotel rooms, due to the lack of rental housing near its resorts.

Smaller hoteliers face similar staffing challenges.

The operations manager of Hotel Mundial, one of Lisbon’s most famous hotels, said it is currently trying to hire 59 staff. He worries that some hotels without enough staff will reduce the number of guests and the range of amenities they can offer.

“If we can’t hire staff, we’ll have to cut our services,” he said. “This is unfortunate and dramatic for an industry that has had no revenue for the last two years.”

Bars and restaurants are also feeling the pressure

Across Spain and Portugal, two of them Europe’s top travel destinationsthe same scenario repeats itself in bars, restaurants and hotels – the bookings they’ve been craving, but at a price they’re struggling to meet.

Jose Carlos Sacó, 52, can only open his Madrid bar Tabanco de Jerez on weekends, when students who need extra money are out of classes and available for work.

“We can’t open during the week because we don’t have hands to learn,” he says, pointing to his student staff setting up tables on a Saturday.

In Madrid’s vibey neighborhood of La Latina, Angosta Tavern owner Mariveni Rodriguez hired migrants for the high season.

“We give migrants the opportunity to work because they don’t have family or institutional support,” she said.

Spanish restaurants are short of 200,000 workers and Portuguese hotels need at least 15,000 additional workers to meet growing demand, according to national hospitality associations.

“The solution will certainly be to pay more,” said Jose Luis Yzuel of the Federation of Catering Services.

Attempts are being made to lure workers back. In Spain bars and restaurants according to official data, workers’ wages in the first quarter increased by almost 60 percent year-on-year. But the tourism industry, at around €1,150 a month, is still the industry where workers are paid the least.

In neighboring Portugal, salaries for workers in hospitality are expected to rise 7 percent this year, according to a survey by the central bank and the National Institute for Statistics, but the average wage in the sector is €881 a month, above the €705 minimum wage .

Bazin said that while hotels are only at 60 or 70 percent occupancy, they can cope with staffing shortages, but the crisis comes when they are fully booked.

“The problem I have is, knowing that we’re going to be 100 percent occupied between the beginning of July and the end of August, can I serve all the people?” he says.

Historically, the industry hasn’t paid enough or focused on human resource development.

“Half of it is that we were blind, that we didn’t pay attention to a lot of people and also probably underpaid some people for too long,” he said. “So it’s a wake-up call.”