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Will recruitment difficulties slow down the announced upturn in the summer of 2022 in Occitania?

It is repeated over and over again in regional economic circles: tourism is the second largest economy in Occitania after agrifood, providing 15.9 billion euros in turnover (10% of GDP) and around 100,000 jobs smoothed over the year, up to 134,000 in August… Professionals, very optimistic in view of the bright prospects that the rates of reservations in tourist accommodation suggest, are sharpening their services and products to optimize the season as well as possible .

But a parameter comes however to spoil this dynamic and to distill concern: the capacity of each one to align personnel in sufficient number to face the expected summer activity.

“It’s not quite proven yet, but this summer, some accommodation providers and restaurateurs risk having a real problem and not being able to open at full capacity because they won’t have the necessary staff”, notes Jean Pinard, the director of the Regional Committee of Tourism and Leisure of Occitanie (CRTL) Occitanie, armed arm of the Occitanie Region on tourism.

According to figures from the community, Occitanie is the 3rd region of France in number of seasonal workers (behind Corsica and New Aquitaine): in 2021, 43% of hiring intentions were seasonal (compared to 32% in national scale). Three departments stand out for their significant tourist and agricultural seasonality: Tarn-et-Garonne (63%), Pyrénées-Orientales (61%) and Aude (61%).

“Something schizophrenic”

Brice Sannac is a hotelier in Banyuls-sur-Mer and president of the Union des Métiers et des Industries de l’Hôtellerie des Pyrénées-Orientales (UMIH 66). He too has already seen the encouraging signs of the 2022 summer season but says he is very concerned about recruitment issues. But for the 2022 season, it still lacks two chambermaids, a beach attendant and a waiter.

“We sense a season that promises to be positive on paper, with good booking rates in our establishments, but HR is THE big downside!, he analyzes at the beginning of June. There is something schizophrenic about this period: a lot of people calling to eat in restaurants and sleep in hotels, but not the staff… Our fear is the loss of 20 to 25% of turnover business because we will not be able to open all the rooms or restaurants for all meals due to lack of teams! It’s heartbreaking! In the Pyrénées-Orientales, there are between 3,000 and 4,000 vacancies in tourism, and around 45,000 unemployed: there is therefore something grotesque in not finding chambermaids, beach attendants, waiters, cooks … »

Have the professionals questioned the working conditions?

The market is tense and we need to restore a good image to our professions, concedes Xavier Lormand, manager of the Catalan hotel group RoussillHotel. We try to train, to offer acceptable and attractive working conditions, in particular with two or three days off per week, rest days at the same time for couples, etc. Because retaining employees means retaining customers… For the moment, in the RoussillHotel group, we are ready to start the season, even if we are having trouble recruiting in the dining room or in the kitchen”

“Complexity but not hardship”

Brice Sannac wants to recognize ” the complexity of the hotel and catering trades “, but not their arduousness:” Being a beach attendant for reception on the beach 35 hours a week for a salary of 1,600 euros per month is not painful! We must not lie to people: it is certain that in the restaurants, we will continue to open in the evening… But there is a real attractiveness policy to have to explain our professions. All jobs have their drawbacks! There are many other professions where you work on Sundays, right? We have worked on the working conditions in each company: for example, at home, for the chambermaids, who are paid €1,400 net, we have raised the beds so that it is less painful for them, we no longer wipe glasses in hand but we have machines, and the kitchens are air-conditioned… The profession has increased salaries by 16%. We can continue but we should not be surprised that the price of the menu increases”.

The manager makes another observation, which does not contribute to securing the human resources of tourism professionals: “ We observe a new phenomenon of volatility, of job abandonment! “.

“That seasonal workers can find accommodation and circulate in the evening”

Pestiling against the merchants of promises who divert certain employees of the sector towards other professions – ” people have qualifications in catering and they are offered retraining to become a personal development coach or naturopath, when there is no outlet! » -, Brice Sannac urges the government to decree general mobilization “ in the departments where tourism is the spearhead of the economy so that people stay in our professions”. And he regrets that in high schools or CFA, ” 40 to 50% of graduates are no longer on the market two years later…”.

His solutions? Recruitment assignments dedicated to the hotel and catering industry with Pôle Emploi, like last year, and massive calls for candidates. Another track: recruiting foreign workers, in this case Tunisians, an approach that is beginning to be considered by the UMIH also in the region.

Finally, the manager underlines a recurring obstacle: the accommodation of seasonal workers.

“We should also create more Houses for seasonal workers like the one in Argelès-sur-Mer, and we are also working with the UMIH Action Logement to create other buildings, he declares. Transport should also be facilitated so that seasonal workers can travel late at night. »

“An empty CV pocket”

As for campsites, the region’s strong point in terms of accommodation, the situation is no better… Philippe Robert, shareholder and operator of the Méditerranée-Plage campsite in Vias-Plages (a hundred employees in the summer) and president of the Regional Federation of Open Air Hotels (FRHPA) in Occitanie, assures that on the staff, ” there are still holes in the racket, and even a lot! “.

“I still have several vacancies, bar server, restaurant server, kitchen clerk and housekeepers for rental accommodation, he indicates. Things have changed a lot in two years, certainly because of the Covid. The value of work has taken a hit… We have a lot fewer candidates! I always have a pocket of 20-25 HP in reserve just in case, and this year it’s empty. I had no spontaneous applications. And everyone says that so I wonder which sector has recovered these employees? »

He too observed this volatility of employees: “ We saw it last year and we fear it for this year: people come with a contract and after three weeks, they decide to leave to do something else, often for no apparent reason… Before, we sold ourselves to find customers, today, we sell ourselves to find employees! “.