Hospitality sector faces tourism boom with severe staff shortage | DW Travel | DW

Most COVID-19 restrictions in Germany have been lifted in time for the Easter holiday. This supposedly inspired more people to go on vacation and finally enjoy restaurants and hotels without having to wear a mask. More than two years after the pandemic, this is an understandable wish.

Ingrid Hartiges, CEO of DEHOGA Hotel and Restaurant Association

DEHOGA’s managing director, Ingrid Hartz, confirmed to DW that the German hotel and restaurant industry is a beam of light at the end of a long, dark tunnel. “Nearly two-thirds of surveyed companies rated the status of their upcoming holiday bookings as satisfactory or better,” she said. After a long period of layoffs, people have a strong desire to relax and enjoy themselves again.

Brighter prospects – and an old problem

Therefore, the hospitality sector throughout Germany again prepares chairs and tables, while hotels prepare their rooms to receive guests. But this expected increase in the number of tourists highlights a problem that has long been a concern in the industry, says Ingrid Hartjes: “Due to the lack of demand during the pandemic, the industry has seen a drop in hiring, despite all efforts to retain employees. Were it not for the benefits of reduced working hours. associated with COVID, the staff loss would have been much greater.”

A sign outside a restaurant advertising jobs as Germany's hospitality sector faces a staff shortage.

Almost all restaurants and hotels are looking for workers

In Germany, more than 130 thousand jobs have been canceled in the past two years, in addition to more than 217,000 small jobs, as short-term employment is called in Germany.

Several small employers of hotels and restaurants have filled other jobs in the retail sector, which has been allowed to remain open during the COVID-19 lockdowns. It is difficult or impossible to get these workers back because they are accustomed to normal working hours and weekends.

There are no applicants only.

In the Berlin-Brandenburg region alone, 20 percent of employees have left the industry, according to the tourism association “Seinland oder Spree”. The market has been exhausted, Eileen Rossig, managing director, told local media, “because every tourist establishment is looking for chefs and staff to serve.”

“You can’t even tell anyone what a great job it is. You don’t even get the chance because there’s no one to talk to about it – no applicants,” adds hotel boss Jörn Peters from Bad Saarow.

Small businesses are trying to fill in the shortage with temporary solutions: in owner-managed enterprises, bosses are advancing more than usual, and many are reducing menu options or shortening working hours.

Payment made digitally in a cafe in Germany via smartphones.

Digital payment and ordering systems can only partially replace employees

digital assistance

For some catering companies, digital solutions can help fill the staff shortage. Many companies offer order and pull systems that allow customers to place their orders in the kitchen or bar directly from their tables.

Many companies are already using these or similar systems to reduce the needs of their workforce. Employees must be trained in the new technology and sales must be high enough to ensure implementation cost.

help from outside

The restaurant and hotel industry is now pinning its hopes on foreign workers. Harts, General Manager of DEHOGA sums it up this way: “The hospitality industry is an attractive international industry and it’s easy to get into. According to the Federal Employment Agency, about 35 percent of our employees are foreign nationals – no other industry is higher.”

A woman serves beer at an outdoor restaurant in Germany.

Service personnel are currently desperately searched for

Hartges said he is pleased that refugees from Ukraine have also found work in the industry. In addition, DEHOGA is trying to attract and train more workers to the local market by expanding its programs for young talents.

Brighter horizons, but darker clouds looming

The sector is now facing the effects of the Ukraine war, which has led to a rapid increase in energy costs. This means that travel will become more expensive, which may keep many vacationers at home. In addition, the operating costs of hotels and restaurants will rise due to higher energy and food prices, so the expected and long-awaited additional income from more guests may not be realized after the epidemic calm.

According to the DEHOGA survey, the main challenges cited by businesses are rising energy costs (85.5%), followed by rising food prices (84.9%), the economic consequences of the COVID crisis (67.6%), and rising personal costs (65.8%). ).

People sit in a crowded outdoor cafe in Berlin Prenzlauer Berg, Germany.

Restaurateurs hope to have outside tables crowded – like here in Berlin – and staff to serve them

The extent to which these increased costs will drive prices up for consumers is entirely up to individual organizations to decide, says Ingrid Hartz. But he adds: “A good businessman will take into account, firstly, his guests, and secondly, take into account the needs of their business and responsibly determine the range of products and prices and, if necessary, adjust them.”

She says attractive offers should continue to be made available to guests on a budget. As long as the balance between cost and value is right, and the reason for any price hikes is understandable, they will generally be accepted by guests.

This article has been translated from German.

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