SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - It’s an issue some in Savannah’s hospitality and tourism industries say is the single biggest challenge on the road to full economic recovery out of the pandemic - finding and retaining workers. And some local businesses WTOC spoke to said they’re having a hard time keeping up with the surge in demand for their services.
While the issue of finding workers is a big issue here, it’s not one exclusive to Savannah. In recent weeks, several of our sister stations in South Carolina have also reported on the problem.
Here in the Hostess City, spring is traditionally the busiest season for the tourism and hospitality sector. And as pandemic-related restrictions continue to ease, and more people get vaccinated, we’re seeing more and more visitors flock to Savannah. And that would normally be a good thing, except now, businesses are having a hard time finding the workers needed to take advantage.
“We don’t have the student population that we’ve had in the past. So, it’s just a huge combination of issues, which is putting a real strain on employers. And I believe it’s going to be one of the biggest detriments to the economy really getting back going because employers cannot fully reopen,” said Capt. Jonathan Claughton, Savannah Riverboat Cruises.
Case in point, Captain Claughton says the lunch cruise Monday afternoon was only at half the capacity of occupancy as what the state allows because of a lack of staff.
A woman who works on Bay Street tells us her theories for the workforce shortage is led, in part, by many who simply don’t want to go into work knowing they’re going to be short-staffed and struggling to keep up. The other theory points to the fact that many are still seeking unemployment benefits.
The latest statistics from the Labor Department show the number of unemployment claims actually jumped up more than 10,000 from the previous week’s data.
“There’s a lot of...and I’m not knocking any of it, I am all for the unemployment, the stimulus benefits that have been getting out. But on the flip side of it, a lot of people are taking advantage of that and not realizing that money is not indefinite and it won’t be there forever. And you’ll need a job to provide additional income for yourself,” said Andrew Williams, Director of Operations for Southern Cross Hospitality.
Williams says because of the lack of a local, qualified workforce, his restaurant group is actually recruiting in other states where restrictions that have been lifted here in Georgia are still in place.