Hotel industry in the Omaha metro struggle to find workers

Updated: Jun. 1, 2021 at 6:29 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - In just a few days the Olympic Swim Trials will come to town followed by the College World Series.

With the busiest month since the start of the pandemic just days away, the hotel industry is struggling to find staff.

“The hotel hospitality and tourism industry was one of the greatest impacted industries through the pandemic,” said Steve Hilton, Omaha Marriott Downtown at the Capitol District GM.

Steve Hilton is the General Manager of the Omaha Marriott in the Capitol District. The hotel is a short walk from both the CHI Health Center and TD Ameritrade Park.

Staffing for hotels across the city is a major issue.

“You know it’s always about offense and defense. And for the past 18 or 14 months, we’ve been running on defense mode,” said Hilton.

Nebraska’s hotel industry has lost about 20% of its workforce since the start of the pandemic. Positions such as cleaning, front desk, and server are all available right now in hotels across the region.

The Nebraska Hotel and Lodging Association says there are a few reasons why we are seeing the shortage. They say low unemployment, fewer international guest workers, and growing demand for workers in other industries are all playing a role.

Hilton says they’ve been able to push through by training staff to take on multiple roles.

“A waitress that works in the dining room. Maybe a certain part of the week the occupancy was very low we crossed trained that same person to go work in Starbucks.”

Hilton says applications have started to pick up in the past couple of weeks. He also says youth sporting events have really prepared hotel workers for both the Swim Trials and the College World Series.

“Hotels have done an excellent job at being proactive. I think Omaha has done an excellent job at attracting sports-related business in the earlier part of this year to help prepare us to build a baseline staff to be ready for this season,” said Hilton.

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