LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Scarce staffing continues to be a real problem for the hospitality industry, including Central Florida’s resorts at nearby theme park attractions, according to a survey by the Rosen College of Hospitality Management at UCF.

With hospitality and tourism a huge economic driver for Orlando and its surrounding areas, businesses should reassess how they operate if they want to find it easier to hire and keep good help, UCF professor Dr. Robertico Croes says.

What You Need To Know

  • Hospitality industry struggling to hire, keep employees, UCF survey says

  • Study indicates 59% of people who left jobs during the COVID pandemic won’t return

  • Across the country, 30% of current workers considering quitting

  • People cite as a reason a newfound importance on their lives outside work

That’s something Jay Leonard is working to do. He’s general manager of the Wyndham Lake Buena Vista Resort, and he’s searching for new team members.

“We still search every day,” Leonard says.

He’s had success growing his team from the small group of about seven people that kept the resort running through the thick of the COVID-19 pandemic, when he found himself doing almost every role at the resort at some point.

Guests may have noticed the boss making Mickey waffles at the breakfast bar, for instance. That’s what teamwork means to Leonard.

“I learned so much about my employees and myself,” says Leonard, who started his career in housekeeping.

The biggest struggle, however, is recruiting to fill open positions now. Leonard has noticed people emphasizing the need for flexible schedules conducive to their personal lives and family time.

That’s consistent with the survey by Croes, too. His survey also indicated prospective employees across the country seek better wages and career benefits like promotions.

According to Croes, more than half of people who left hospitality jobs across the country aren’t coming back. Many employees in the hospitality industry that are still on the job are even thinking of quitting.

“You know, a lot of them were saying they’re going back to school to learn something new,” Croes says.

“The current business model that the hospitality industry is using or is applying is no longer sustainable,” Croes says. “They have to really reassess.”

Leonard says most resort and hotel jobs offer similar pay, above minimum now. It’s at least $15 an hour so he says he thinks the pay puts him on equal footing with his hospitality competitors at other resorts.

He says he is trying to be flexible, promote people and express their personal values, in hopes this approach can lead to a bigger team for him soon.