• Hotel industry job losses start

The hotel industry is beginning to shed jobs as the downturn bites. The biggest headline number has come from Wyndham where 4,000 positions went as part of a plan to realign its timeshare business.

But nearly all hotel companies are quietly eliminating positions now that trading has decisively turned for the worse.

Rising unemployment is one of the most painful symptoms of the recession. On both sides of the Atlantic job losses have hit the headlines.

The US labour market statistics showed 76,000 hotel jobs went in November and in the UK, in the quarter to the end of September 2008, 51,000 jobs classified as distribution, hotels and restaurants were lost according to official figures.

Anecdotally, the US companies that are being most ruthless include Marriott and Starwood.

And it is becoming rare in Europe to come across a hotel company worker who has not been put on notice of redundancy. The catalyst for widespread action was the drop-off in trading in October.

Some companies are adopting a wait-and-see attitude. At InterContinental, for example, CEO Andy Cosslett was quoted this month saying no decisions on numbers have yet been made.

But it is clear that the push to grow development teams will now stop in almost all cases. In fact, rumours are circulating that at least one major operator is planning a major cull in this area.

If this proves the case, either the company believes that this recession is indeed going to turn into a depression or else it is being overly short-termist.

In the period following 2001, development executives were cut across the board only to be hired back a year or two later at considerable expense. Some rationalisation is inevitable but unless the corporate is overly indebted – which thankfully few are – cutting back in areas core to the growth of a brand owning and operating company seems short-sighted.

Meanwhile, the lay-offs at Wyndham have been caused by the collapse of the securitisation market. Timeshare units in recent years have been sold to customers on the back of loans usually originated by the timeshare company itself.

But now the markets in which these loans were sold-off to other investors have frozen, leaving the timeshare company holding the loan.

All of a sudden, a huge attraction of timeshare from a developer's perspective has been damaged: the ability to be paid upfront for building the property.

Wyndham, the world's largest seller of timeshare units, says it is cutting its sales projection by 40% next year to $1.2bn from $2bn. This reduced number is manageable in the absence of the securitisation market, it believes.

About 13% of the workforce in the timeshare division is going. Other changes include the closure of a number of sales offices and marketing programmes.

Share →