Hotels harbor high hopes for job fair

Hotels need workers. In June, Gainesville’s SpringHill Suites was struggling to keep pace with the influx of travelers despite having less than half of its pre-COVID staff.

Now, Rebecca Lamb, director of sales for SpringHill Suites, says the situation has worsened.

“We’re just trying to keep our buildings open,” Lamb said, answering questions while checking in guests at the front desk—and adding that she would run to inspect rooms once she finished at the front desk.

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Lamb hopes the situation will improve, and working with the Greater Gainesville Chamber of Commerce and the Alachua County Hospitality Council, hotels from across the county will recruit at the Hospitality Job Fair.

The fair is Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Drury Inn & Suites at 4000 SW 40th Blvd. with job positions ranging from housekeepers to bartenders and kitchen managers.

Currently, 22 hotels are scheduled to attend the fair to conduct on-site interviews and offer sign-on incentives.

Lamb says SpringHill Suites has 14 employees and needs to add a lot more. The hotel still shuts down its booking system almost daily because rooms can’t be prepared in time. And lack of staff forced the hotel to switch back to bagged breakfast instead of a buffet.

“It’s very hard because guests get upset because we can’t deliver those services they would expect,” Lamb said. “But it’s difficult when you’re so short staffed, and those that are here are exhausted.”

She said all other hotels are feeling the same pain with employees working long hours to fill in the gaps.

“It’s all over the place,” said Lamb, who chairs the hospitality council. “Every single hotel is just really struggling.

SpringHill Suites is looking to interview and hire applicants at the fair, immediately making hiring decisions.

The hospitality industry reflects the rest of Gainesville and the surrounding area. According to the Greater Gainesville Chamber, Alachua County entered August with more than 12,000 job openings, a record high.

Since Florida ended the extra federal unemployment benefits in June, more people are looking for and finding jobs. Lamb said that’s a good thing—because many are needed at Friday’s event.

“My biggest concern is that we’ve got 22 hotels, and maybe we only get 20 people who walk through the door and then we’re all fighting over the same 20 people,” Lamb said.

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