Improving the work environment so that the turnover rate is kept to a minimum is another strategy that hotels are employing. The Rendezvous Grand is doing its best to retain older workers, while using technology such as motorised trolleys to help them in their work. Certain job operations may be outsourced, such as security, banquet and some components of housekeeping. But the hotel has to ensure quality standards are maintained when a third party is brought in, Mr Ong said.

At the Pan Pacific Group's new Parkroyal on Pickering hotel, staff are trained in multiple job roles, with clear career progression charted out as employees hone their skills. This will be rolled out in some of the group's other hotels too.

Recently, the Job Flexibility for Productivity scheme was piloted by the Ministry of Manpower and STB, allowing a hotel to offer employees the opportunity to be deployed across different job functions within the hotel.

"We hope it will help boost productivity and translate to higher wages for workers performing multiple roles," an STB spokesman said.

Some hotels that BT spoke to said that the added flexibility could help. But Orchard Hotel suggests that the scheme may not be a fix-all. "When the hotel is running full-house or at its peak periods, all operations departments would be affected and it would be difficult for any of them to spare manpower. Also, many staff are already physically stretched," Mr Tan said.

The Pan Pacific Group is also looking at flexible rostering and hiring older workers as well as those who may have been out of the workforce for a while such as housewives.

But not every good idea is a home run. For instance, the group tried to hire a third party to help out with cleaning - but the agency in question couldn't find enough staff either.

"The world has changed," said Pan Pacific chief executive Patrick Imbardelli. "We keep on trying things but you've got to do that now."

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