Hotels in Halifax are having a hard time finding employees to fill key front-line positions, and it's expected only to get worse. "This isn't a maybe, it's an absolutely," said Mary Dempster, president of the Hotel Association of Nova Scotia. "We're hearing all about the staffing crisis in the West, but people don't realize that here in the East, we're having what I call the staffing crunch."
Hotel managers across Halifax are feeling that crunch. "When I first came to this company in 2001, it was nothing for us to get 30 to 40 resumes a month," said Jaime Bolduc, general manager of Four Points Sheraton in downtown Halifax. "Now we're lucky if we get one or two."
Celeste Baxter, general manager of the Holiday Inn Express on Kearney Lake Road, has had a problem keeping a full staff since January, well before the busy summer tourist season. "We receive very few resumes when we do a job posting," she said, and even after they hire, "it's a revolving door."
It's an issue across Nova Scotia's $1.3-billion tourism industry. For the first time, the industry is entering a period of zero labour force growth by 2010. "It's our job to get ahead of that because it hit fast in the West," Dempster said. "They didn't see it coming, but we have the benefit of seeing it coming."
The biggest need is for room attendants, or housekeeping. "It's very physically demanding," Baxter said. "I don't think that a lot of people realize what we mean when we tell them how hard it is to do this job. When it comes to cleaning 14 guest rooms, making 14 beds and moving fast ... there's lot of turnover."
The shortage comes at a time when the tourism industry faces other pressures, such as declining room occupancy (in part due to declining numbers of American tourists) and out-migration. "Certainly it's not a glamorous job, but there's a certain level of standard that the hotels desire," said Brian VanBlarcom, who teaches tourism economics at Acadia University. "You have to have individuals in those jobs that are conscientious and work long hours for relatively low pay."
Hotel managers and leaders in the tourism industry are re-examining who they recruit, how they recruit, and how to retain them. "The days of working 15 hours a day and not thinking a thing of it, and 'getting ahead,' those are gone," Dempster said. "Our young people are the product of parents who put 25 years into a large corporation and ended up getting laid off."- The Daily News.