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The Hotel Neptun on the Baltic coast has a luxury problem familiar to many German businesses: a lengthy help-wanted list it needs to fill to meet booming demand.
The five-star accommodation in a 1970s-era beachfront high rise at Warnemuende is looking for an electrician, chefs, a waiter, a maid, fitness instructors and a beautician to serve a growing number of German and international guests.
It’s an issue that threatens growth not only in the country’s tourism sector — on track for a 10th year of expansion — but across Europe’s biggest economy.
“Holidaying in Germany has never been more popular,” said Guido Zoellick, the hotel’s general manager who is also president of the German hotel and restaurant association DEHOGA.
“But continued success doesn’t just depend on demand, it’s also especially about having the right policies for the country,” he said by email. “One of the most important and most urgent tasks for the industry is meeting our need for qualified staff.”
The risk posed by a lack of qualified workers — Fachkraeftemangel in German — has reached the highest echelons of power. Chancellor Angela Merkel this month hosted a special meeting of political and business leaders to address the issue, which spans software engineers to nursing-home staff.
In an effort to ease recruitment, a law will take effect in March to smooth the process of hiring academically and professionally qualified workers from outside the European Union. The accompanying website, called “Make it in Germany,” offers information for employers and prospective workers.
The help couldn’t come fast enough for the tourism sector. More than two-thirds of hoteliers and restaurateurs identified the scarcity of skilled staff as their biggest problem in a DEHOGA survey published last month.
Tourism is a key motor of growth for Europe’s biggest economy, contributing about the same to gross value added as retail or manufacturing and employing more than 3 million people, according to government figures.
Germany’s pull as a tourist destination increased markedly after reunification in 1990. Cities in the former communist East like Leipzig, Dresden and Potsdam became part of the itinerary, along with a large stretch of coast line including the wide, sandy beaches at Warnemuende, where the Neptun is located.
Germany has almost 7,000 museums, more than 500 theaters and about 300 Michelin-starred restaurants, not to mention 200,000 kilometers (124,000 miles) of walking trails, 16 national parks and 13 wine regions.
Flight shaming has helped keep more Germans closer to home, where they splurge more than 200 billion euros ($222 billion) a year on tourist goods and services. Foreign visitors spend around 40 billion euros.
Finding enough qualified staff is “by far the most significant economic risk” to the sector, said Dirk Binding, a tourism expert at the DIHK chambers of industry and commerce.
“Particularly in the hotel and restaurant trade, the ongoing scarcity of skilled workers leads to rising labor costs,” Binding said by email. Some hoteliers and restaurateurs are being forced to curtail their services or even turn business away, he added.
For now, the German tourist industry is coping. The total number of overnight stays rose by almost 4% in the 10 months through October, according to latest official data.
“Tourism in Germany is booming,” but the ability to tap into that demand is increasingly under threat, said Zoellick. Rising costs, tangled bureaucracy and geopolitical events like Brexit and trade disputes are helping to cloud the outlook, he added.
©2019 Bloomberg L.P.