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In lack of employees, the Basque coast restricts its tourist offer

“It has become a joke between us. Who will be able to say this summer that his team is complete? Even ours is not, because we should have been 80 this summer against 50 for the year, but we miss him. several more people, especially in the kitchen. And this while we are benefiting from the openness and appeal of a five-star and Relais & Châteaux establishment in a green setting.”explains Olivier Richard, householder at Brindos in Anglet.

This establishment, both a hotel and a restaurant with a view of a private lake and once belonging to rugby player Serge Blanco, reopened its doors a month ago after a major renovation by the Bordeaux group Millésime.

Simplified menu, restricted hours

A few kilometers away, the restaurant Le Seven, at the Chambre d’Amour, one of the eleven beaches of Anglet, has also succeeded in attracting new employees, but the account is not there: “We are 14 today and should be twice as many in a month, but we have no candidates…”, points out its owner Pascal Marien. To relieve his team, he simplified the menu and, after having closed in January and February for lack of staff, resolved to close on Tuesdays and several evenings during the week: “It already represents a big shortfall and it will be even more the case during the peak of the summer season, which is absolutely necessary to have the means to be open all year round”.

These two testimonies reflect the tension in the hotel and restaurant sector, which has been commonplace in this tourist region for years but which for many this year has become insurmountable as the summer season approaches. The lack of hands has even led some restaurateurs, especially in the hinterland less attractive than the coast, to close their doors, such as La Cuisine à Musée in Orthez, which was last served on May 21. The Umih, the main employers’ union in the sector, thus fears a “historic shortage” and estimated in early April that between 200,000 and 300,000 job vacancies remain unfilled in the country. Despite the agreed increase in the minimum wage, now 5% higher than the Smic, as well as an individual increase of 16.33% on average in wages on April 1, candidates are not flocking.

The issue of the pace of life

For many, it is precisely not a question of remuneration, but above all of the pace of life. During the health crisis, many of them have reoriented themselves and few will return, especially among those with children, even in the opinion of restaurateurs and hoteliers crossed, who are trying to review the organization. This finding applies more generally to tourism professionals. “By definition, we work when others don’t, so Saturday and Sunday in low season and weekdays in July and August”, notes Christophe Rosiejak. Even by offering classic hours (10.30 a.m. to 7 p.m. in July-August), with an hour’s break, and with year-round contracts, the owner of Wow Park in Urrugne (twelve employees in the summer), who like his peers Although working with Pôle emploi to find people to train, it is just as difficult.

Historic record of hiring intentions and recruitment difficulties in New Aquitaine

Especially to find employees who can manage the three snack bars in the middle of the trampolines and treehouses. “We’ve invested heavily in hardware to make it easier to get things done, allowing inexperienced people to join us, and making it easier for this generation born with the laptop to get started”, he continues. For professionals, this is precisely where the shoe pinches, all pointing to a change in attitude: “candidates don’t answer the phone and don’t come to the appointment without warning. I lost an employee last year: when I offered him a permanent contract, he resigned, preferring to chain fixed-term contracts and touch the unemployment benefit”, quotes Pascal Marien.

The new calculation of the unemployment benefit, which came into force in December, penalizes “those permits”job seekers alternating unemployment and activity, a situation that was sometimes more advantageous than continuous work. “The new rules will encourage some to seek a CDI, but deter others”, believes Olivier Richard, previously director of the Hôtel du Palais in Biarritz, who emphasizes having to devote more and more time to human resources.

Accommodation included

In order to make up for the lack in the medium term, Umih is preparing to sign an agreement with the Tunisian government to encourage the arrival of young people wishing to work as seasonal workers. A solution which is not one for the professionals questioned, who would all prefer to employ premises. On the one hand, because it allows them, like the Seven, to be open during the year, to satisfy a larger local clientele and holidaymakers who love short stays in France. On the other hand, the inhabitants of the region already have accommodation in this region where accommodation has become very complicated, even more so for seasonal workers.

The most considerate Basque employers, and who have the means, offer to remove this thorn from the side of their future employees. Thus, Brindos, like other luxury hotels on the Basque coast, provides accommodation in mobile homes at the campsite for their employees, whether seasonal or not.

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