Travel and hospitality face global summer staff shortages

Travel and hospitality face global summer staff shortages

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Hotels, resorts, restaurants, bars and airlines in Europe, the UK, the US and beyond struggle to fill vacancies

The global hospitality sector employs around 30 million people in seasonal positions, and many of these will seemingly go unfilled as employers struggle to tempt workers back after the pandemic.

Popular destinations such as Greece, Portugal and Spain are expecting a busy summer, but are anticipating problems with staffing in a number of areas, mainly customer-facing positions such as bartending and table service. 

Money “not necessarily the issue”

Close-up of waiter carrying a dish of paella — ShutterstockThe Spanish Confederation of Small and Medium Enterprises is adamant that waiters at popular summer resorts live on a comfortable living wage — Shutterstock

Resorts in Spain seem to be struggling more than most, with industry experts warning that up to 50% of positions in popular resorts such as Benidorm may remain unfilled, leading to reduced capacity or, in some cases, complete closure.

The Spanish government claims that a number of factors, including low pay and poor working conditions, have contributed to the scarcity of employees. The Spanish Confederation of Small and Medium Enterprises backs up these claims — in part — but says that money is not necessarily the issue.

“The salary of a waiter in Benidorm is about €1,200 per month and in addition, there are a lot of tips, especially with the English – each waiter takes about €300 more per month” said a spokesperson, going on to say that “precarious” contracts and “a lack of recognition” were increasingly important factors.

Young cafe bartender wearing a surgical mask and operating a till — ShutterstockPre-pandemic, the hospitality industry in many countries was greatly supported by skilled students — Shutterstock

These claims appear to be backed up by the situation in the US. During the pandemic, many hospitality workers were forced either to re-train or take whatever other jobs they could get, and now the low pay, long hours, precarious job security, and lack of recognition for their hard work have meant that employers are struggling to tempt people back to the industry.

Often, seasonal work attracts students, and that’s normally not an issue, but with two years of the industry being virtually on hold, there’s another problem related to finding employees for the summer season.

Luc Marchal, president of Horeca, a federation that represents parts of the hospitality industry in a number of European countries, explains: “When a student has been trained and comes back three or four years in a row, that’s fine. But if it’s a new student, it’s not easy. Being a bartender or waiting on tables sounds simple but it requires knowledge.”

Flight schedule disruption

A number of airlines have also found positions difficult to fill, with some operating without in-flight catering services, and some taking even more extreme measures. EasyJet has resorted to removing seats from some of its aircraft so that flights can operate with fewer crew members.

British Airways announced the cancellation of around 16,000 flights over the spring and summer seasons, while Scandinavian airline SAS announced that of the 75,000 flights the company had originally scheduled for the May-August period, around 4,000 will not be operated.

The issue here appears to be similar to one of the problems affecting hospitality: staff that had previously worked for the airlines have either found new jobs, or simply don’t want to return. The general consensus is that a combination of mismanagement, lack of trainers (and therefore training) for both pilots and crew, and a rush for travel that was not anticipated to this degree has led to the current situation.

If you’re flying with this summer and are worried about the possibility of carrier changes or cancellations, consider adding the Guarantee to your booking. With the Guarantee, we’ll find you free alternative flights or provide you with an up-front refund if you encounter these issues.

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David Szmidt

David is a lead writer for, as well as a football-watcher, music-listener and beer-appreciater. @UtterBlether