FLAGSTAFF, AZ — There is another side to the travel boom we’re seeing across the country and Arizona: not enough workers. The shortage is especially hurting mom-and-pop, family-owned hotels like The Weatherford Hotel in Flagstaff.
“It was built in 1897 as a mercantile,” explains Sam Green, who owns The Weatherford with her husband. “And in between 1897 and 1900, tourism became an economic boom because of the Grand Canyon.”
Sam and her husband have owned The Weatherford since 1975. Together, they brought it back from the brink of shutting down, fully renovating the building from top to bottom while paying tribute to its turn-of-the-century roots.
Stepping into The Weatherford is like taking a step back in time. They have everything — the history, the charm, the backstory — except the workers.
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“My biggest fear – losing my employees, which I did,” explains Sam. “I had 50. I’m almost back to 30 and I’m still not open full time. It’s very distressing to be in your empty building and see customers on the street but I can’t let them in because I can’t service them properly.”
And without a full staff, Sam says The Weatherford can’t fully reopen. The hotel went from welcoming guests 24/7 to now, only being open three nights a week. The hotel’s bars and restaurants also falling victim to the staffing shortage.
“We used to do a great breakfast, lunch, and dinner business. I can’t get open for lunch yet except for Saturday and Sunday…It’s very frustrating. I’m here when we’re closed and I’m still working. I have work to do. Frustration is those folks that walk in front of the building and I don’t have my umbrellas out or my chairs and (the) patio is not open and it’s July.”
Debbie Johnson with the Arizona Office of Tourism says it’s something other hotels and businesses are reporting across the state.
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“Everywhere is feeling it,” Johnson explains. “They’re feeling the pinch, feeling it from the employee side as well.”
In July, Governor Doug Ducey’s office announced more than $100 million from the federal government’s American Rescue plan would be used to help boost tourism with part of that money going towards helping the industry hire.
According to Gov. Ducey’s office, tourism spending in Arizona was down 41% in 2020.
With many businesses shutting down or limiting capacity, some workers in the tourism sector decided to find jobs in other industries and may not be willing to come back.
“I’m doing housekeeping. I’m doing everything. You do whatever you have to do to survive.”
The Weatherford Hotel is currently hiring. For more information, click here.
To visit the Arizona Office of Tourism’s employment website, click here.