Earlier this month at Toronto’s Chelsea Hotel, Hotelier hosted its first one-day Housekeeping Forum since the pandemic hit, highlighting the pivotal and ever-important housekeeping department. Always viewed as one of the most important departments in a hotel operation, never has housekeeping been as valued and as visible as it is today, after a lingering pandemic that has taught us a new appreciation for cleanliness, hygiene, and sanitization.
Tourism HR Canada’s Director of Workforce Development, Dena Maxwell, was a panellist on the Human Capital: Where Will Tomorrow’s Housekeepers Come From? session discussing how labour shortages are changing the world of housekeeping. Along with fellow panellists Tony Elenis, President and CEO of the Ontario Restaurant, Hotel, and Motel Association, Mandie Abrams, Executive Director of the Hospitality Worker Training Centre, and Joshua Platz, Managing Partner at Global Hospitality Search Consultants, she highlighted some of the best practices being used and developed by hoteliers to ensure success on multiple fronts: hiring, training, diversity, and inclusion.
“The pandemic has heightened pre-existing workforce issues in our industry,” Dena stated. “We must pursue multiple strategies to adapt to current circumstances. The full recovery of the visitor economy hinges on a skilled, diverse, and inclusive workforce.”
Tapping into non-traditional sources of labour is a must moving forward. As one example, Fairmont Hotels in Quebec has partnered with Giant Steps – a school that welcomes students up to 21 years old with autism spectrum disorders.
Andre Pereira, director of marketing and communications & project manager for employment initiatives at Giant Steps, recently explained to Inspiration News: “There are 8,000 job openings in the hotel industry right now, with many hotels forced to close off entire floors due to staff shortages. This program is a way of tapping into a new profile of employees that they may not have considered in the past, who may be able to help them fill some of the positions as part of the labour shortage right now.”
In the first two months of the pandemic, 880,000 tourism workers lost their jobs and the tourism unemployment rate reached 30%. In September 2021, Canada’s economy reached its pre-pandemic levels.
This was not the case for tourism.
As of May 2022, the most recent month for which data is available, the sector is still over 200,000 workers short its May 2019 level.
There are many causes for this disproportionate impact on the tourism labour force, but as we kickoff summer 2022 and peak tourism season commences in most Canadian destinations, there needs to be a continued focus on people-first.
There is a need for adapting business models and improving HR practices with a continued focus on retention. The sector is facing far greater competition for workers that it has before, so highlighting the benefits of working in tourism alongside continued diversification and inclusion of workers needs to be top of mind for tourism employers.