Travel is the Business of People

By Tim Peter, Founder & President, Tim Peter & Associates

You take care of your guests every single day. Except… that’s not entirely true. In practice, your staff takes care of those guests. You create an environment where your staff can succeed and then they create experiences that result in repeat reservations and increased revenue. Beyond hotels, the entire travel ecosystem depends on people to provide an outstanding experience, one where guests and travelers learn to trust brands that accommodate their needs, that help them enjoy their trip, that treat them like human beings. Technology plays an increasingly large role. But even technology requires people to envision it and bring it to market. It’s not just rooms or seats or wheels or tech; it’s the human connection that matters. Yet, no matter whether front desk or gate agent, housekeepers or facilities, reservations or revenue management, hospitality and travel face a staffing shortage unlike any we’ve seen in recent history. And when you can’t find the people who live to take care of your guests, it puts your entire business at risk. 

Impact of Labor Shortage 

Along with poor weather and a surge in COVID cases, reduced staffing caused the cancellation of thousands of flights during the recent holiday season1. Hotels have faced similar labor shortages, resulting in reduced service, increased labor costs, and lower guest satisfaction scores2. Industry leaders have been fairly vocal about the risks to their businesses. During a recent earnings call, Hilton CEO Christopher Nassetta said that the current labor shortage is “probably the single biggest issue we’re dealing with.3” Worse, the issue doesn’t appear to be improving anytime soon with travel industry growth forecast above 28% next year4. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics showed greater than 1.3 million hospitality job openings at the end of November, some 40% higher than any previous November and one of the highest recorded numbers in industry history—all of the other record months were in 2021 as well5. And unemployment in hospitality remains well above the national average6

How can the hospitality, travel and tourism industry find, attract and retain the talent needed to reach its projected growth? Long-standing industry practices may offer some insights in how to address the situation. 

Reach Candidates Where They Spend Their Time

The growth of digital marketing, social media, mobile and direct response campaigns across the travel ecosystem have taught marketers to “fish where the fishing’s good,” allocating resources and budget towards their most productive channels when attempting to put heads in beds. That approach may also produce results when seeking candidates. Just as your guests seek travel experiences in mobile and digital channels, so too do your potential employees. They look for work opportunities using the same tools as when shopping for other products and services important in their lives. You’re looking to connect with people. And if hospitality is the business of people, consider where people spend their time online to find prospective employees. Online social platforms such as Facebook Jobs offer simple tools that allow hiring managers to reach people where they are. Even better, these tools provide local targeting to help you sift through possible candidates and focus on those in your market actively looking for work. According to Facebook, one employer has seen a 60% increase in monthly applicants using Jobs on Facebook7

“Sell the Destination First”

It’s also no secret that many savvy hotel marketers “sell the destination first,” enticing guests with the benefits available in the market before pitching the guest on their hotel itself. Hoteliers may find results using a similar approach with potential employees. Speaking at the NYU International Hospitality Industry Investment Conference this past fall, Marriott International CEO Anthony Capuano stressed how important it is for hotel managers to “… tell the story of what a terrific set of industries it is and how easy it is to build a really productive career.8” Hotel owners and operators can use content marketing and social media to illustrate not only job openings, but the vast array of career opportunities that exist within the hospitality and travel industry at large. 

Travel and hospitality offer inherent benefits unmatched by other industries. In addition to accounting for greater than 1 in 4 new jobs created pre-pandemic9 and “…nearly a third of all U.S. services exports10“, travel and tourism jobs can allow workers to gain easily transferable skills, a rich and varied environment, flexible scheduling and opportunities to travel11. Plus, the job itself can be tremendously exciting and fun. Telling a great story about the benefits of a job in hospitality can be the first step towards encouraging potential employees to choose your business. 

Tell Your Brand Story as an Employer Too

Of course, after “selling the destination” — a career in hospitality — you can also use these same tools to sell your brand as a great place to work. What kinds of people do you wish to attract to your property or travel business? What kind of experience do you want your staff to embody? Your brand as an employer plays a crucial role in attracting staff — and convincing them to stay. 

Research shows this in practice. Among key findings in recent studies by Glassdoor: 

  • “86% of employees and job seekers surveyed research company reviews and ratings” before choosing where to apply for work
  • A majority of Millennials (68%) and Gen X (54%) surveyed “visit an employer’s social media properties specifically to evaluate the employer’s brand.”

In fact, Glassdoor also found that 86% of HR professionals said that “recruitment is becoming more like marketing.12” It’s not just a question of what your social presence tells your guests; it’s also the story you tell current and potential staff. What do you want that story to be? 


Hospitality is the business of people. You take care of your staff, they take care of your guests and together you take care of your bottom line. Yes technology can help, but people create the human connections that power successful hospitality, travel and tourism businesses. Think about where you can most easily connect with people, where they spend their time, and use those tools much the way savvy marketers have to reach potential employees. Digital, mobile and social are how people connect. And they’re how you can connect with potential new members of your team. “Sell the destination first” by demonstrating the benefits of a career in travel and tourism to find new candidates eager to build a sustainable future. And then focus on brand-building and storytelling that illustrates why your business is a good fit for your prospective employee’s career. Your guests and your business depend on great people. Use digital, social and mobile to connect with those great people so your guests–and your business–can thrive. 

Part 2 of a 2-Part HSMAI Insights series in partnership with Meta.
Read Part 1:
Partnerships Between Brands and Creators Will Define the Next Generation of Travel Marketing

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Categories: Marketing, Talent and Leadership Development
Insight Type: Articles