Resort town shares hiring challenges and housing hurdles for foreign workers

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Tourism in South Florida is reaching pre-pandemic levels, but for hotels, staffing remains an issue. The reason may surprise you: competition and the lack of affordable housing.

Vacancies at the Palm Beach Marriott Singer Island Beach Resort and Spa really run the gamut.

“Beaches, pool attendants, catering, bartenders, servers,” said Stephanie Guibert, director of human resources, naming some of the more than two dozen vacancies. “Almost every department has a vacancy right now.”

Guibert said the turnover had nothing to do with hospitality before. She said it’s getting harder to retain employees.

“Everyone is hiring for the same thing right now, everyone is competing with different perks,” Guibert said.

What has helped many local stations in the past, said general manager Roger Amidon, is not an option for the station this season. The H2B visa program, which grants foreign workers temporary visas to work in the United States, is generally a go-to source of labor.

“If we are able to attract them here to our station, where will they find accommodation? Amidon said.

According to CareerSource Palm Beach County, to date 43 hotels/clubs/resorts in the area have applied for more than 2,000 H2B visa positions, but it turns out that many resorts that intended to hire foreign workers this season have not been able to do so because of the housing market. .

“Typically country clubs, hotels or resorts, they will either partner with local real estate companies or if they have a partnership with someone who may have a multi-unit resort to see if they can negotiate a price,” Amidon said.

Due to the high cost of renting in Palm Beach County, Amidon said it didn’t make financial sense for the resort to take advantage of the foreign worker program this year. Instead, the station had to get creative to fill some positions.

“Her name is Rosie and she can serve tables,” Guibert said of a robot working in the hotel restaurant.

The station also reinstated the 401k match, increased referral incentives and offered higher pay, which accelerated its compliance with Florida’s $15 minimum wage over the next four years.

“We’re already there and in many cases we’ll be above that in 2026,” Amidon said.

Waiter Roberto Valentino said he was lucky his rent only went up $100 in Palm Beach County and then got a job at the resort.

“At the time, I had two jobs, so I was stable enough here that I didn’t have a second job,” Valentino said.

With 100% occupancy this week, the station held a job fair to try to fill around 30 vacancies. Meanwhile, the busy spring break weeks are fast approaching.

“We have to rely on third-party contractors to try to fill in some of these gaps because ultimately the show has to go on,” Guibert said.

According to CareerSource Palm Beach County, in addition to housing issues, hiring foreign workers has been more difficult for employers this season due to the effects of backlogs, COVID restrictions on travel, and increased competition from other country.

Scripps content only 2022

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