Hospitality industry faces staffing shortages amid peak tourist season
Even though the hospitality industry has seen a surge in business this summer with restrictions easing, the same cannot be said when it comes to finding and keeping staff.
On a sunny Sunday, customers line-up at Waterfront Pizza and Wraps shop on the Halifax waterfront – a sign of business bouncing back.
But numbers are still far from pre-pandemic levels.
"Last year, during the first stages of COVID we were down about 30 per cent in the year 2020, compared to 2019," says owner Kevin Doucette.
“This year we’re at 60 per cent.”
Hotels and restaurants in the Maritimes are starting to see a boost in business with relaxed restrictions and tourist traffic, but with staff shortages throughout the region, these hard-hit industries are struggling to keep up with demand.
The president of the Saint John Hotel Association, Jasmine Mosher, says starting this summer, but over the last two weeks especially, hotel bookings have been on the rise – but staffing issues have made it hard to capitalize on that.
"We’re trying to take advantage of the business and the increase in business," says Mosher. "But the problem is that staffing is also a challenge, so we’re not able to take advantage of the busy season at the moment."
According to the Restaurant Association of Nova Scotia, over the last few weeks, sales in the industry have been relatively strong.
But executive director Gordon Stewart says because it’s being driven by the peak travel and tourism season, it’s unfortunately only temporary.
“The long term, is there’s still lots of road bumps ahead of us,” says Stewart.
"Certainly the sales are going to drop off towards the end of September and October, and that’s going to put everybody in a tight strain right back into the springtime.”
Stewart says the industry was already facing a shortage before the pandemic, and it’s become a major problem.
“In particular in the kitchen area, we’re short red seal chefs, chefs, cooks, line-cooks, anyone in the kitchen, and that’s now spread to the front of the house,” says Stewart.
Stewart says that in general, it takes restaurants two to three years longer than other businesses to rebound from an upset in the marketplace, which means that this industry may have a long road ahead to recovery from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.