Excerpt from Travel Weekly
Confronting a protracted labor shortage, hoteliers have struggled to maintain standard operations, much less meet new demands that the pandemic has produced.
So, when the AC Hotel Sunnyvale Moffett Park opened in California’s Silicon Valley on Feb. 11, general manager Mike Lerman had a solution in place: a robot on staff to help ease the load.
Lerman has tasked the Aethon robot with bringing towels, toiletries and a variety of other items to guests. The robot can also carry deliveries from Uber Eats, DoorDash and other food delivery services, a need that has exploded during the pandemic. It is equipped with four compartments, enabling it to make multiple deliveries in one run.
“We can’t let the delivery people roam the hotel, so either we run it up or we call the guest to come get it, but that all takes some time from staff,” he said.
Lerman said his decision to lease the robot wasn’t about replacing humans with machines. He also sped up his hiring process and increased referral bonuses.
“This is not about replacing staff members,” he said. “It’s about being more efficient with our labor resources and keeping people in their posts and guest-facing.”
Like Lerman, hoteliers across the country have been adjusting hiring practices and exploring outside-the-box ideas as the industry continues to welcome back guests much faster than it can bring back workers.
An October survey from the American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA) found 94% of hotels were understaffed and 47% said they were “severely understaffed.”
For the first time in its history, the AHLA Foundation is sponsoring a nationwide advertising campaign, titled “A Place to Stay,” to boost hospitality hiring. It also launched a website, TheHotelIndustry.com, with a searchable jobs database. The multiyear endeavor is launching in English and Spanish in Dallas, Denver, Miami, Phoenix and Columbus, Ohio, and expanding to markets across the country throughout 2022.
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