Portugal’s hotels suffer staff shortages

 In Hotel, News, Tourism

Many of Portugal’s hotels are unable to find enough staff to see them through the busy summer season period because salaries are simply too low.

According to CNN Portugal, the average salary in tourism (hotels and restaurants) in the busy tourist region of the Algarve is €881/month.
The region’s hotels need around 15,000 staff but it seems no one is interested in working in them. Many staff laid off during the Covid-19 pandemic chose to retrain for better paid job and simply didn’t return.
The sector had been facing staff shortages well before the pandemic, at least since 2018, but this year it is imperative that the sector recovers lost revenues after two years of losses.
“We’re having great difficulties in hiring staff. Our operations are starting the summer season limping”, said Alexandre Marto, CEO of Fátima Hotels Group.
Luís Alves de Sousa, Managing Director of Hotéis Heritage adds, “We’ve had a lot of problems arranging staff. With a stroke of luck, we may have just solved the issue and have sorted out a skeleton team to cover summer operations”.
The Portuguese Hotel Association (AHP) estimates that it needs 15,000 more employees for the sector to fill its staff vacancies. And even throng there are job vacancies, there is no-one to fill them. “We’re starting the season with the staff that we need. We’ve got 45 staff vacancies in all area where we operate”, says Bernardo Trindade, CEO of the PortoBay group who is also president of the AHP.
So if there are the jobs to fill, why is no-one buying? Hoteliers are unanimous in the answer: the issue lies in the hours in a sector which works 24/7/365.
“There were some people who changed their professions during the pandemic period when we were closed. They rethought their lives. Some changed jobs, other emigrated”, explains Luís Veiga, CEO of Natura IMB Hotels, which has units in Portugal’ Serra da Estrela area. Another problem is that there are less students willing to study hotel and catering.
Finally, there is the problem of low wages. The average wage in the accommodation and restaurant sector at the end of 2021 stood at €881 according to the National Statistics Institute. Hotels insist they pay above the national average, but do the long and irregular hours compensate?
“All the hotel groups are paying better and this is an issue we’ve been assertive to address. But we have a feeling that this is not enough,” says Berardo Trindade.
Some hotels are using incentive packages to lure and retain staff such as productivity bonuses, heath insurance and discounts in partner services.
“We already have a package of conditions, including salaries and additional bonuses and benefits such as health insurance and discounts which as a rule are above the average offered by the sector and we think we’ll be able to attract staff”, says Gonçalo Rebelo de Almeida, the director of the Vila Galé Group, the second largest in Portugal.
As to the question of long hours, Bernardo Trindade said, “We’re open to being more careful when drawing up staff work rosters, dividing up the weekends more equitably among the entire work force”.
Unions certainly agree on this. “The main problem continues to be the unpredictable nature of the working hours”, said Francisco Figueiredo, head of Portugal’s hotel, restaurant and tourism industry union FESAHT.
He insists that the overwhelming majority of staff in hotels and catering continue to work for the minimum national salary and even when new jobs pay better, those who are already in contracts don’t get more.
“There’s no negotiating on this and the breach is unbridgeable. Many senior management structures don’t offer career progression or incentives for older staff”.