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Siesta Key hoteliers bounce back from spring staff shortages

As the holidays approach, hotel owners and managers say staffing and labor are returning to normal.

Photo by Ian Swaby
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The popularity of Siesta Key remains strong during the holidays, but how do the island’s hotels manage the influx of visitors? 

In June, multiple Siesta hotel owners described facing staffing shortages. 

Now, at one of the busiest times of the year, the island’s hoteliers share whether they feel the situation is improving and what it requires today to offer a homey experience for the holidays.

Siesta Sands Beach Resort

Since the springtime, Siesta Sands Beach Resort has been able to hire and maintain a complete full-time staff, said property manager Sheila Johnson.

“We've been very fortunate, but I know other properties have not had the best of luck,” she said.

Since that time, Johnson said she has seen a slight increase in applicants, although she says this could be due to more people looking for work seasonally.

“Three to three-and-a-half years ago or so, you couldn’t get someone through the door to even show up for an interview,” she said. “It’s gotten a little bit better, but I don't think any business is back to where it ever was before with hiring.”

She noted employers have had to follow many strategies, such as increasing wages.

Whatever remains to improve, though, she is confident guests will enjoy a comfortable stay during the holidays, and welcomes the additional traffic. 

“It's been really great for our property, as well as a lot of our other sister properties in the Sarasota area,” she said, noting that she also manages other properties on Siesta Key as well as Longboat Key.

Johnson said historically, hotels have seen a lull after spring break, becoming busy again in July, but that following the pandemic, the rate of guests has become more constant throughout the year. 

The beachfront resort includes two buildings totaling about 20 rental units, making it an average size for Siesta Key. 

"It's really just how well the staff works together and is trained to provide that high level of customer service,” she said. 

She also tries to take the holidays into account with that service. 

“We try to, of course, be cheerful with decorations,” she said, noting that the office is decorated and features a bulletin board of restaurants open for Thanksgiving and Christmas, for those who may not want to cook a meal during their getaway.

The Inn on Siesta Key

In June, Paige Hartmann and her son Gabe Hartmann were managing many of the duties around the Inn on Siesta Key, including some cleaning. 

“One person can’t keep up with all the turns we have,” said owner Paige Hartmann at the time. “We’ve had to step in.”

However, she said in a subsequent hiring process, she was able to recruit a housekeeper, Portia Smith, about a month ago. Candidates were more responsive than they had been earlier in the year. 

“We’re happy now,” said Hartmann. “I feel awesome, because we have found her, and that makes everything, because our high season will kick in at Christmas, so now I feel we have a good team in place to handle the ins and outs of it.”

Owner Paige Hartmann has assumed some of the responsibility for cleaning The Inn on Siesta Key, amid staffing shortages.
Photo by Ian Swaby

She said the additional help will make it easier to provide the experience she wants guests to enjoy during the holiday — a place that feels like home. 

“I think that the trend now is that cozy experience,” said Hartmann. “Personally, when I go for a holiday, I'm looking for that too, where it feels like it's your own home, and we can provide that here at the inn.”

She said guests can enjoy a historic experience at the inn, which was built in 1936, and has a fireplace of natural stone and hardwood pine floors.

Although she thinks that a grandchild she is expecting this year could divert her plans, she also normally bakes muffins or treats for guests, which she drops off on Christmas morning. 

She is always sure to alert guests of what activities are going on in the area, like Siesta Key’s holiday parade in November.

“We had some cute little families that were here, and they just thought that was great, because it went right by the Inn on Siesta Key, the whole parade," she said.


The Capri at Siesta

A large number of returning guests are found at The Capri at Siesta, said Janice Fraser, as there is considerable interest in Siesta Key as a holiday destination. 

In the five years she has worked there, the hotel has always been completely full on Christmas, Thanksgiving and New Year's, with most holidays completely full well in advance. 

“Honestly, I haven’t had to find staff in so long,” she said, noting that the hotel’s current staff are devoted to the establishment.

She noted the hotel has also been busier throughout the entire year, not just for the holidays, in recent times. 

“We became very busy after COVID, and it just stayed busy for years, up until this year,” she said.

However, the situation may be returning to normal, as she said during August, the hotel saw a slower season for the first time in years. 

She said the hotel celebrates the Christmas season by decorating the building. 


Tropical Beach Resorts

Bill Jones, general manager of Tropical Beach Resorts, said the situation in regards to hiring staff is currently optimistic.

Although the resort has one position which often rotates out, he finds there are many people willing to step into it.

"Anything we send out there that we've advertised for, we're getting a lot of applicants; we’re trying to find that qualified candidate,” he said.

Nonetheless, he said the resort has not been having issues related to staffing. 

“We haven't had any real issues on the staffing side of things. We have the hours for everyone, and our associates have been able to take care of all of our guests.”

For two years after the pandemic, there had been intense demand throughout the year, but fortunately, he says, the situation has changed. 

“When you're sold out every night, all month long, it just makes it difficult to keep the product where we expect it to be and certainly where our guests expect it to be,” he said. 

He said demand is becoming softer during the holidays, with the hotel having returned to its pre-pandemic seasonal timeframe with shoulder seasons at the end of August and September and in early December.

He hopes people will come and experience Christmas in Siesta Key, which includes a staff member at the resort dressing up as Santa Claus, and of course, the setting. 



Ian Swaby

Ian Swaby is the Sarasota neighbors writer for the Observer. Ian is a Florida State University graduate of Editing, Writing, and Media and previously worked in the publishing industry in the Cayman Islands.

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