Resort Staff Turnover

Staff turnover in the resort industry is becoming an increasingly difficult problem to manage. The problem is industry wide, but the areas that depend on ex-patriot laborers are particularly prone to turnover and scuba diving in the resort industry typifies the problem.

The big players in the industry are losing out to smaller, more closely managed companies. Club Med is a large player in the resort game that is facing stiff competition. Small dive resort operators are proving time and time again that they can build a solid core of repeat customers who will help build the business of the resort through word-of-mouth advertising. The most successful of these small resort operators often have a core staff of divemasters, captains, and managers who remain with the company season after season, often for years at a time.

Any regular Club Medder knows that their week’s vacation will be laid out like a cookie cutter was used in the scheduling. They know that Wednesday will be Olympic Day, and that the main restaurant will be serving Italian, and that the show that night is devoted to the guests making fools of themselves on-stage. This approach became a necessity in the management of the individual resorts. New staff only needed one week to learn 90% of the schedule.

Club Med faces a major complication in their operations. Because their clientele is so international, most of the staff is required to speak two or more languages each. Let’s face it, multi-lingual dive instructors simply don’t grow on trees. And yet, they often turnover their entire dive staff in one village in less than a year. Because of this lack of staff continuity there are very few "old hands" within their system.

It is precisely these "old hands" who become the customer favorites. These valued staff people often become good friends with the guests, and guests look forward to their vacations not only as a vacation, but as a chance to catch up with a friend. When the management of a company places no value on the ongoing staff/guest interaction, high turnover is inevitable. I would suggest that ongoing operations and even the financial health of the company could be put at risk when this particular detail is overlooked. Club Med again becomes an excellent example. They were recently taken over by a much smaller German travel company.

That is not to say that high turnover cannot be managed. Within small companies it is possible that the owner himself becomes well known and a valued friend to each guest. The remaining staff can then be churned as quickly as anywhere else. Several companies on Grand Cayman use this particular strategy. In fact Ron Kipp, owner of Bob Soto’s, directed a discussion that concerned just this topic at DEMA 98. Concerning his divemaster staff he stated, "Most of these youngsters are here to have a good time for a short time and then move on. Most of them are running from something, whether that is Mommy or Daddy, a girlfriend, or the IRS doesn’t matter. You can’t count on them for any length of time." His lack of respect for his staff was painfully evident. Ex-employees of such a company might disagree with the methods but there is no arguing with the successes.

But the best of all worlds must lie in those unusual resorts, where the staff have been around for years, and they still work as hard as they did on the first day they were hired. Such places will exist forever because the respect they give their employees is exactly the same respect they have for their guests. Such a place is the Pirates Point Resort on Little Cayman. Most of the staff of this resort measure their term of employment in years rather than months. This resort has an average occupancy rate of 95% year after year after year. Their average customer is a repeat customer. Even though the resort has only 12 rooms, these are the kind of numbers hotel executives dream of.

These examples prove that a low turnover rate leads to phenomenal success. But, they also show that turnover can be managed in a closely held company with a strong controlling manager. It is the large and cumbersome organizations who will suffer because of high staff turnover rates.