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Hotel worried tourists will sleep in unclean rooms due to staff shortage

Author
Otago Daily Times,
Publish Date
Tue, 3 May 2022, 10:31am
Hilton Queenstown general manager Chris Ehmann. (Photo / ODT)
Hilton Queenstown general manager Chris Ehmann. (Photo / ODT)

Hotel worried tourists will sleep in unclean rooms due to staff shortage

Author
Otago Daily Times,
Publish Date
Tue, 3 May 2022, 10:31am

A high-end Queenstown hotel operator worries tourists will be sleeping in unclean rooms once the trickle of international visitors turns into a flood because there will be too few staff to keep rooms clean.

Hilton Queenstown general manager Chris Ehmann said occupancy levels were being restricted across the board by accommodation providers because of a shortage of staff to service rooms, and the like.

During last month's school holidays, which Ehmann described as "a test" of things to come, many hotels were not cleaning rooms for the duration of a guest's stay.

"That's the kind of service that we're going to be giving over ski season, it'll be the same.

"I'm not going to name names, but some of the five-star hotels are not offering a five-star experience — I can't lie, I was struggling, I was getting rooms cleaned later and later in the day.

"People come and they want to check into the rooms and I'm like, 'We're sorry, you'll have to wait, we're still cleaning the rooms because we just don't have enough staff'."

Ehmann said there was "absolutely zero light on the horizon" to solve that problem without the ability to bring more workers in to New Zealand.

While the Government often touted the country's record-low unemployment rate, at 3.2 per cent, as a positive, it was a hindrance when so many businesses were desperate for staff.

Ehmann said job ads on TradeMe were up by 34 per cent, "but they're not getting filled".

"It's not through a lack of salary, there's just a lack of people.

"Salaries are going up and up and up, but there's still a massive, massive shortage [of willing workers]."

Yesterday, borders opened to New Zealand for international visitors from visa-waiver countries, provided they returned a negative pre-departure Covid-19 test and were vaccinated.

Forward bookings from those visitors to Queenstown indicate it will be June 24 before any great uplift is seen.

Destination Queenstown's latest 90-day forward outlook, which predicts visitor number to the end of July, shows levels of accommodation demand in the Wakatipu sitting about 30 per cent until the end of June, with a slight uplift, to 40 per cent, over Queen's Birthday.

While Qantas is looking to resume direct transtasman flights to Queenstown on May 23, and Jetstar following at the beginning of next month, it is not until June 24 — the same day Air New Zealand intends to resume its direct transtasman service to the resort — tourists are expected to flood in.

That date coincides with the new Matariki public holiday, from when occupancy is predicted to double, sitting about 70 per cent until the end of July, which, given the issues sourcing staff, was a double-edged sword.

Ehmann: "As excited as we are about the onslaught of business, all of us are scared beyond belief about staffing."

Fable Dunedin general manager Jeffery Lee said international reservations were scarce.

He was optimistic this month would finish at up to 70 per cent occupancy, due to University of Otago graduations, bookings for June and July were 14 per cent and 12 per cent, respectively, "but I'm optimistic we're expecting to finish June about 62 per cent, July maybe 65 per cent."

He expected up to 20% of new bookings to be from international guests, primarily Australians, in the conference and incentive market. While there was "low demand" in C&I at present, "there are inquiries coming through".

Staffing-wise, while Fable Dunedin was also dealing with a chef shortage, the five-star hotel was able to draw from the University of Otago's student pool to fill many other roles.

"We're OK because we're hiring a lot of students."