Photo of a senior for the article Find Your Retirement Purpose in the Hospitality Industry

There is a group of people out there looking for a retirement purpose. And there’s an industry that desperately needs their work ethic, relational instincts, and talents. How do we bring them together?

I have a few suggestions to offer to my hospitality industry colleagues. 

I worked in the hotel business for 36 years, primarily in human resources, with most of those years in corporate positions focused on talent acquisition and talent development (that’s recruiting and training for you Baby Boomers).

I worked for Marriott when they had 35 hotels; now they have 35 brands. I oversaw corporate staffing for The Sheraton Corporation and then did the same for Fidelity Investments when it was located solely in Boston. I helped start two hotel management companies that went on to become multi-billion-dollar earners as well as helped modernize La Quinta Inns before it was Wyndham and widely franchised.

Speaking of franchising, I also worked for the world’s largest franchisor (at the time) as CEO of Travelodge Hotels. Forgot to mention my other CEO job which was with the American Hotel and Motel Association’s Educational Institute. Finally, I sat on nine collegiate hotel school boards as well as several operating committees of AHMA and other aligned hospitality associations or groups.

I worked for companies at all tiers of hospitality, from economy to luxury. I viewed the industry from a global perspective. I sat in on the meetings where decisions were made that help chart the industry’s course to great affluence. Then I left that world in 2014.

As I write this now in 2024, I ask the question: why can’t the industry figure out how to staff itself properly?

Recently, I read an online article in Hotel Management magazine that stopped me in my tracks. It said the following:

“As of April, the United States had nearly 10.1 million job openings, but only 5.7 million unemployed people to fill them, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.”

It went on to say:

“The need for workers throughout the lodging industry continues to drive historic career opportunities for hotel employees, who are enjoying record wages and better benefits and flexibility than ever before,” said AHLA President & CEO Chip Rogers. “That’s why AHLA and the AHLA Foundation remain focused on growing the industry’s talent pipeline through workforce recruitment and retention initiatives like the Foundation’s Empowering Youth and Registered Apprenticeship programs. But there is still more to be done. We need Congress to help address workforce shortages with bipartisan solutions, including those that create opportunities for more immigrants to enter the American economy.” 

Let me take you back to the 1980’s when our industry blossomed and grew like weeds. Talent acquisition was an art. We developed several new channels of recruitment to staff our hotels and then pay competitively, benefit wisely, and create a feeling of camaraderie or culture so we could retain the people we hired.

Today, those channels have dried up. Immigration has slowed; experienced long-term employees have either retired, returned to their home countries, or found work in other industries that were more COVID-friendly. The need for flexibility of schedule, access to affordable childcare and finally healthy pay and benefit increases have all slowly been put in place by most hotel employers.

But we still have 10 million plus openings to fill, and we are going on the third year of this condition, while travel is going through the roof.      

Consider the old profile of a hospitality worker:

  • Someone who is young and vibrant
  • Someone who can do a rather demanding and strenuous job while also having a service-oriented and hospitable personality
  • Someone who is driven by their relational instincts rather than a transactional attitude

That profile does not exist generationally except in one exception: take youth out of the prerequisite and you just described a Baby Boomer. They are a group of 70 million plus, are relational in their outlook, and known to be on-time workers and loyal to their employers.

And…wait for it….

They seek employment because 27% or 18,900,000 of them want to work to fill their desires for a retirement purpose, income, and sociability‚—and they are ready to work when you need them. Your new pay grades are acceptable. Many don’t need your benefits because they have their own – Medicare. And their biggest motivation is to belong again and interact with people.

By the way, Boomers as a group are relational, not transactional. Thus, they have a hospitality flair as part of their generational DNA.

So why aren’t more hospitality employers going after them?

Gen Z thinks they are yesterday’s news, Millennials abhor them, and Gen Xers fear that they are about to become them.

Yes, they need to be educated as to the details of the job.

  • How about an apprenticeship program for seniors?
  • How about an onboarding that focuses the older generation on the techniques of hotel technology?
  • How about ignoring ageism, which is the next challenge in the world of diversity and inclusion?

Yes, hoteliers, it’s time to pivot once again. It’s time to look at your job requirements. Time to see how the older generation—desperately seeking a retirement purpose—can be of service so you can stop making beds and seating customers. Time to assess your human inventory availability and go after them before someone else beats you to it.

It’s time to get on social media (Facebook) and put up some billboards of older workers in uniforms looking happy, healthy, and productive because they’ve found a satisfying retirement purpose.

If you want to get back to your job, it’s time to be a welcoming place for the Woodstock Generation.

Your retirement purpose is about more than money.

Sure, you’ll need to finance the retirement lifestyle you desire, but many make the mistake of thinking retirement is all about the money. At Retirement Lifestyle Coaching, we’ll help you see the big picture when it comes to crafting a retirement lifestyle that works perfectly for you.

About Bob Foley

Bob Foley is your Retirement Lifestyle Coach and you can reach him by email at or simply by scheduling time on his calendar.

Bob FoleyBob Foley is on a mission to make sure your retirement lifestyle is designed just for you. After all, he knows how much retirement has changed in the past few decades. Because you’re not your parents, and your retirement won’t look like theirs.

You’re a dynamic and vibrant individual, and retirement isn’t about to change that!

Bob knows what it’s like to be a driven, career-minded professional who’s suddenly standing on the precipice of retirement, looking down on an unfamiliar landscape full of shadowy unknowns and big, looming question marks. » Meet Bob Foley