Hotel turnover! Part I

Welcome hoteliers!

Turnover… a touchy issue for employers all over the world. And in hotels, well it’s rampant!

I mean, there’s so many brands, so many options, lots of vacant positions, hotels are always hiring because people are always getting promoted, resigning, changing departments, it’s quite hectic really.

However the reasons for the turnover are quite different in countries say, China, Korea, and the United Stated.

Being that I worked in all three countries, and whilst generalizations to an extent I want to discuss this in 2 parts. Mainly to shed some light about Asian hotel hiring situations that you prospective hoteliers might encounter and as some food for thought as well. 🙂

United States!


Our country is big, and there are many regional differences, but let’s talk about the turnover rate in NYC!

In NY the main turnover is with management; particularly middle management. Front line staff are unionized in most hotels, meaning their position is very stable! They pay the hotel unions a weekly “union dues” and in exchange the union offers protection, representation, helps find a job if you get laid off under certain circumstances, seeking a new job etc. the union offers much, so the front line staff usually stay; plus they make more than the managers!

The managers on the other hand are climbing to the top and usually change hotels within the same brand, such as a person in a Courtyard Marriott might jump to a Ritz Carlton and then to a JW Marriott since it’s all in the Marriott family group of hotels. So managers are seeking higher salaries, advancement opportunity, and growth.

Most managers will only remain for a year or so, then transfer to another property. This means that staff is constantly meeting, getting to know, then saying goodbye to constantly changing management. That definitely creates a strain on morale and loyalty, my impression of the most staff in the hotel, is: “oh boy, another manager… (sarcasm)”

That’s for the US anyway!




For China I’m going to use Shanghai and Chengdu since I’ve worked substantially in these 2 cities.

The management does move around but usually after 2-3 years in a position however the front staff especially front desk agents and in F&B, the F&B hosts are the usual source of high turnover.

Actually, China has an issue with front line staff staying and gaining enough experience to become managers, hence it’s one of many reasons overseas managers are present, although that is changing.

Unlike in the USA, the pay is extremely low for front line staff, they’re usually living together in staff housing provided by the hotel, and the staff cafeteria isn’t very good. So the work conditions are okay however the living conditions is quite disappointing; if you’re anything like me, you don’t fancy sharing living space. Because of all of this, it’s easy to see why agents change jobs for a completely different hotel brand just for an extra $100 a month!

Also the hotel demands a high level of English language competency for front of house staff, which is to be expected, coupled with overnight shifts and these conditions… it makes for quite a frustration build up. One former agent put it like this:

“If I can speak good English and I have these skills, instead of working for this low wage, I can go work in an office job doing trading or sales with foreign companies and make $500 more a month!”


South Korea!


Have to make that distinction there~ anyways, in S. Korea, jobs are scarce as the competition is extremely fierce in major cities like Seoul; even fiercer than NYC and I’m quite serious. Hiring practices are insane, front line staff must “look” the part. So much so that Koreans often have surgery not just for school or because they want to enhance themselves to boost their confidence; it’s also to be able to get a job.

In S. Korea, looks can get a job over experience in some cases. One friend even told me of a minimum height requirement for men and woman in front offices! But back to the main point!

Because jobs are scarce, the turnover is much lower, and the salaries are much higher then say China but a little lower than NY, the turnover rate is quite low. While good in a way, it makes the hotel system quite bland which is Korea’s problem. I actually really love Korean culture and definitely want to go back, but there’s no real opportunity to get into the hotels mainly because there’s no openings. The other factor affecting hiring and turnover, which is similar to to China, is hiring overseas born Koreans or Chinese is becoming more and more popular and they will often take the internship positions as well, since they speak English fluently in most cases!

What does this mean to you, the future or current hotelier who is aspiring to become a General Manager?

If you’re going to work in NY, become familiar with unions, as I’m doing now, still getting used to it! If you’re going to work in China, get used to constantly training constantly changing staff, it’s fun at first, but after constant resignations and new hires, it gets old, and if you’re in Korea, cherish that job because it’s quite hard to get in!

That’s all for this first article, next one I’ll show you my experience dealing with these factors and how I handled it! Thanks for stopping by and see you in the next article!



Best Regards,

Daniel Cooper

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