Supply chain crisis hitting hotels hard, from shampoo bottles to food items

Hotels lacking basic supplies, staff as busy holiday season hits

SAN ANTONIO – As if hotels didn’t take a big enough hit during the pandemic shutdowns, they’re now dealing with the fallout from the supply chain crisis.

These issues are even more visible as hotels fill up for the holidays and events like the NCAA Alamo Bowl game in San Antonio.

“We don’t have the supplies we need just to operate on a day-to-day standpoint -- shampoo, conditioner, lotions, soaps, hand towels,” said Tom Green, president of Presidian Hotels and Resorts.

Presidian is a group of 14 hotels and resorts, 13 of which are in South and Central Texas.

Green said supplies are taking months longer to come in if they’re available at all. He walked through the Estancia del Norte hotel in San Antonio, pointing out items like lamps ordered last year and just got there last month.

Serious staffing shortages also mean no room service and linen changes only upon request.

“Prices are going up on fundamental food items, being doubled, tripled, even quadrupled,” Green explained.

They’ve had to remove things from the menu, and some items’ prices have had to increase. Plus, restaurants like the one at Estancia del Norte can’t be fully staffed right now, so the dining area is only open for breakfast and private parties.

Material and labor shortages have also made renovating and building hotels difficult.

“Companies in China or elsewhere don’t want to ship because the ports are backlogged. Then once it gets to the port and they offload it, there’s not enough trucks to actually deliver it. The railways are backed up,” said Phillip Lawson, director of strategic initiatives for Presidian.

Presidian is building a new hotel near I-35 and Loop 1604, and the opening date has been pushed four times already -- from October to the end of January.

“I’m hoping when Chinese New Year happens, it gives the ports a break because they don’t ship anything for that entire month. Hopefully, the ports get caught up, railways get unclogged. Hopefully, more truck drivers come back to work. So maybe by March, the flow might be better, but I don’t think the demand vs. supply is going to improve significantly,” Lawson said.

They’re starting by standing up to suppliers they say are operating on a questionable process to combat all these issues.

“What’s extrapolating this problem is the suppliers are telling people to stockpile, so what you would normally order a month in advance, people are ordering three, four, five, six months of supplies, which is dwindling the supplies even more if you’re not first in line,” Green said.

He has teamed up with the owners of other hotels to confront the suppliers and ask them to enforce limits so the supplies can be spread more evenly.

Knowing this supply crisis will likely drag on well into 2022, hotels are getting creative, first finding other material brands that are available now.

Even that isn’t easy for some hotels, like chains requiring specific brands and products.

“You can upgrade, but you can’t downgrade your product, so if you’re a full-service Hilton, you can go up, but you can’t go less than the quality,” Lawson said.

They’re also leaning on other hotels inside and outside their own company.

“We’re having to go to other groups and say, ‘Hey, we need help. Can you supply this for us? Can you bring some of that over?’ And they’ll say, ‘Yeah, we can do that, but do you have these supplies?’ And we’ll say, ‘Sure!’” Green said, highlighting the beauty of South Texas communities in times of crisis.

“It’s why I love living here and love working here because everybody wants to help each other,” he said.

All the hotels have the same goal: keeping customers happy so they’ll come back and stay again. That’s harder to do when companies are being forced to hike rates.

“We’ve raised prices but not at a level I would say is significant for the customer as of yet,” Green said.

Green knows that could change as the crisis drags on, but he’s keeping faith in the grit and resiliency of the service industry.

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About the Authors:

Courtney Friedman is a KSAT anchor and reporter. She has an ongoing series called Loving in Fear, confronting Bexar County’s domestic violence epidemic. She's also covered Hurricane Harvey, the shootings in Sutherland Springs and Santa Fe, and tornadoes throughout Texas. She’s a California native and proud Longhorn who loves calling SA home.