Hotels

Marketing team cleaning rooms, HR clearing tables as Omicron strips QLD hotel workforce

Despite Omicron sweeping through the Sunshine State, holiday goers are still venturing to Queensland, causing stress for resorts and hotels that are struggling to find staff.

Places like Paradise Resort, just a few streets back from the Gold Coast surf, are bearing the brunt of staff shortages with sales and marketing teams cleaning rooms and turning beds, reservation staff making coffees, and human resource employees in the kitchen and cleaning tables, according to The Guardian.

“There’s no such thing as a normal week at the moment,” said the general manager of the Paradise Resort, David Brook.

In December, tourism businesses on the Gold Coast prepared for the NSW-QLD border reopening and bookings were strong, with up to 96 per cent of room reserved at one point, according to Brook.

Cancellations in the face of Omicron meant that the hotel is only at about three-quarters capacity, but this is still overwhelming, with 21,000 COVID cases on the Gold Coast and thousands more close contacts.

“We’ve reached a cycle stage. Staff have got Covid or become a close contact, they’ve had to be off for five days and they’re returning as others go off. It’s been really tough, but we’re getting through it,” said Brook.

“Anything where there are high labour costs – and that’s our industry – it’s being affected a huge amount. That’s especially true for the small tour operators, surf classes, jetski places. If they lose two or three staff, that’s their business shut down.”

General manager at the Big4 Gold Coast Holiday Park, Andrew Hewitt, has been working in the kitchen, and last week he made the “previously unspeakable” decision to close the cafe for dinner service, according to The Guardian.

“We’re in the second year of this now. We’ve done a lot of things that were unprecedented in the last 24 months,” Hewitt said.

“If anyone thought this season was going to be a walk in the park, of course, it wasn’t. I told my family: ‘Do not expect to see me home over Christmas’.

“Housekeeping was my biggest concern and still is. If you’ve got no one to make the beds, how can you sell a room?

“We had people answering reservation calls from home [but] one day we just had to say the phones aren’t going to go online until 9am. We didn’t even have somebody to take messages.

“Just when you think you’re going good, all of a sudden a staff member goes down. Then two go down,” Hewitt said.

It’s not just hotels and resorts on the Gold Coast that have impacted tourism in Queensland. North Queensland’s tourist market has been hit harder than most, with the local industry’s umbrella group estimating businesses have lost $5.3bn in potential revenue during the pandemic.

Christmas bookings in Cairns were strong, but the reality has been 50 per cent worse than the initial forecast and “millions of dollars of cancellations,” said the Tourism Tropical North Queensland chief executive, Mark Olsen to The Guardian.

“We had high hopes,” he said.

“We saw a flurry of businesses reopening when the borders reopened. For many of them, this will be the hardest time.

“They’ve reopened at what was going to be the boom time. They’ve scaled up and they’re ready and the customers just aren’t there. They’re the ones we worry about the most.

“This was supposed to be the turning point, a domestic boom that would push us through … and it’s just been a fizzer.”

The ongoing shortages have meant that many hotels have been locking rooms – not offering them to tourists – because they are unable to take hotel guests.

“I would say, as a whole, tourism, and hospitality is facing some of the most difficult operating conditions since the pandemic took hold,” Olsen said.

“We’ve lost so many businesses and we will continue to until these conditions improve. But we do feel like we’re moving forward. We’re seeing policy changes that are trying to ease restrictions. We’re in a phase where case numbers are increasing and trying to ride it as best as possible.”


Featured Image: Facebook/Paradise Resort Gold Coast



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