Lack of manpower for a long season at the Best Western in Plymouth
PLYMOUTH – Best Western Plus Cold Spring The hotel, on Court Street between the city center and North Plymouth, is known for being in the right location and generally open at the right time. 2021 was to be the year of the turnaround after the ravages of 2020 on the economy and the world. Masks, vaccines, a national program to get there. And, yes indeed, business picked up right away. But a funny thing happened on the way to the reception.
As with so many businesses this year, staff, not guests, has become the challenge of 2021.
“We have had a very good season,” said Kevin Martin. Martin is the longtime assistant general manager of Best Western, whose core staff have pulled the hotel through a busy summer with not even half of its normal staff.
“The apps just weren’t there this year,” he said. “Normally, in addition to high school or college students, you would also see international students looking for a second job. Others too have turned to us for a second job. But these have been non-existent throughout. the season.”
Martin needs breakfast shift workers to greet guests, distribute breakfast foods, keep the dining room clean, and keep supplies in stock. And he needs help at the front desk, which typically has around seven people on duty handling online reservations, phone calls, arrivals and departures, and customer service requests.
In the breakfast team, an employee returned in the mid-season of a few years ago, so the burden fell mainly on one person. “Our main person at breakfast worked a lot more,” said Martin, “and did a phenomenal job.”
As for this reception, “at one point we had seven people,” he said. “Now there were three of us, the replacement owner. “
Martin, as fate would have wanted, was away for the month of June, having undergone an unexpected surgery.
And while 2020 has been a sluggish year, due to the obvious circumstances of the pandemic, 2021 has returned to 2019 levels.
“In mid-April, the phones started ringing,” Martin said, noting that the hotel reopened in March after a winter shutdown. “The old guests from years ago wanted to come back, a lot of people we haven’t seen in a while. It’s a property they knew. We have an open hallway, which was helpful, and an outdoor swimming pool. “
So how does a half-employee at best handle a full demand for rooms and services?
“You work more hours and do it later at night,” Martin said. “Some things fell through the cracks for sure. I’m in sales too, but I found myself reacting more than looking for new sales.”
Calls were missed at the front desk and some people called Best Western’s central reservation system. “But a lot of people like to call the hotel itself.”
So a lot of bookings have accumulated online. “We were taking reservations all day,” Martin said, “but a lot was done overnight to be handled.”
Overall, most, despite slipping through the cracks, have been made.
So why is there a shortage of applicants this year?
“We never heard objections at work,” Martin said. “People always talk about the extra $ 300 in unemployment as a reason not to work, but no one has mentioned it as a reason not to apply.”
Martin is involved with hospitality industry organizations and had this conversation with his peers in the region. “It’s not just Plymouth; a lot of people just weren’t there,” he said. “It shows the presence of international workers during the regular season. Most could not get interviews because the embassies were closed.”
Best Western typically receives customers from New England, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Texas, Florida, even California and Europe. Europe is not so much this year because of COVID. But this year he’s seen a lot of local faces.
“For the record, I know Massachusetts has been strong for us this year. Lots of people come several times a season to enjoy the outdoor pool and what Plymouth has to offer.”
Among these offers? As chairman of the board of directors of the See Plymouth tourism agency, Martin knows this well.
“There are many reasons to come,” he said. For starters, Plymouth is a popular wedding destination. He lists others: family reunions; football clubs playing at the Forges field; historical attractions such as Plimoth Patuxet, the many local museums and the monument to the ancestors. Let’s not forget whale watching and other waterfront attractions. And the arts and entertainment.
“The Spire Center and Memorial Hall are big draws,” Martin said. “Last week there were some MMA fights at Memorial Hall, and this coming weekend is a big draw for The Marshall Tucker Band. And The Spire is filling seats with its offerings.”
And when people come to see these places, they often dine in town or arrive early to see the sights and shop.
“Sometimes they come for the shows, but we don’t know until they come and we have a chat with them,” he said. “We make bookings couple by couple or family by family, so we don’t know why they’re here until they get here, unless it’s a wedding.”
Or coach tours. 2021 hasn’t returned to 2019 levels, but the seats are filling up again. 2022 should be back.
But the endowment?
“Having a full squad next year is a question,” Martin said. “It would be nice to know now instead of waiting until April. From a business perspective, I’m happy with the wedding blocks we have. And the coaches are still focusing on the fall, not the year. next.”
But another area will certainly be very attractive: golf.
“The golf course and all the courses here attract a large number of visitors because of the variety,” he said. “I read that Plymouth has more golf courses than any city in eastern Massachusetts. We have groups of golfers who come in for tournaments. And they like there to be a good mix of things to do.”
So Kevin Martin doesn’t know what he’ll have for the staff next year. But he knows what he has now.
“I’m lucky for the staff I have,” he said. “We’re very lucky. Our core staff have been here for many years and know what they’re doing and aren’t afraid to work hard. And that helps the regulars come back.”
He thought back to his month-long absence in June.
“I really noticed it was for surgery,” he said. “Everything was going as it should. The phone was ringing all the time, and they took care of it. The staff we made made all the difference.