HB on the Scene: Labor still top of mind at Hunter

ATLANTA—The hotel industry continues its march back from the pandemic at the 33rd annual Hunter Hotel Investment Conference, held here at the Atlanta Marriott Marquis.

Just a year after the conference was the first major industry event to be held after the pandemic shut the world down, the first day of this year’s edition was filled with optimism and talk of deals and the future.

While rising inflation and international conflicts remain a part of the global hospitality landscape, during the C-Suite Conversation general session, most of the CEOs and the audience said the continuing labor crunch is the top concern at the moment.

Moderated by Chip Rogers, president/CEO, American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA), panelists included Rob Palleschi, CEO, G6 Hospitality; Tom Buoy, interim CEO/EVP, chief commercial officer, Radisson Hotel Group Americas; George Limbert, CEO, Red Roof; and Geoff Ballotti, president/CEO, Wyndham Hotels Resorts.

“[The labor shortage] is forcing us to continue to raise pay rates, provide increased benefits and, in most cases, we’re not able to transfer that cost over to the customer with rates,” said Palleschi. “We are keeping pace with the market, but it is impacting our profitability.”

Ballotti said it important that future workers are made aware of the benefits of working in the industry. “People do not view this as the easiest place to work or the best place to work necessarily,” he said. “It was an issue before the pandemic…it’s been improving…but it is all our responsibility…to make sure that the young workforce out there views this as a place that we all viewed it as years ago.”

When it comes to attracting and keeping employees, Limbert noted that flexibility is important. “In today’s day and age, with employees having the power that they do, you have to meet them where they are,” he said. “You have to be flexible with their schedules—that solves the childcare issues [and] some other issues as well.”

Flexibility also helps with the current gig economy, where people are working multiple jobs. “You have to create a flexible working environment in order to attract that audience,” said Buoy. “You can actually see marketplaces starting to evolve where you can look online and look up timeslots and sign up to meet that need in a very competitive job market.”

Pictured above, left to right, Chip Rogers, Rob Palleschi, Tom Buoy, George Limbert and Geoff Ballotti.

Look for more coverage from the Hunter Conference in the April issue of Hotel Business.