Staff shortages in Spain plagues catering industry in tourist areas

by Lorraine Williamson
staff shortages

BENIDORM – Not so long ago it seemed unimaginable that catering establishments would be forced to close due to staff shortages. While a lack of customers forced them to close during the pandemic, now there is a lack of staff. 

In the UK, Benidorm is one of the most popular holiday destinations. Moreover, it is not without reason the television series of the same name became a big hit in the UK. The creator, actor, and screenwriter Derren Litten opened Mateo’s a few years ago in the English part of the tourist town on Spain’s Costa Blanca. Mateo is the name of one of the characters. 

 “Temporarily closed and until further notice” 

Like most companies in the sector, Mateo’s had to close for a few months due to the pandemic. However, staff shortages are greater than the lack of customers. Therefore, as a result, Mateo’s is “temporarily closed on Tuesday and until further notice due to staffing problems”. This is what the owner wrote on the business’s Facebook page. 

In one of the responses to the ad, a British tourist points out that “no one will get a permit” to work in Spain over the summer because of Brexit, “very sad”. 

“4,000 people needed in Benidorm and surroundings” 

But the problem goes beyond the so-called “guiri zone”. This is confirmed by Javier del Castillo, president of Abreca, an association of bars, restaurants, and cafes in Benidorm. According to his calculations, 4,000 workers are currently needed in the hospitality industry in Benidorm and the region. “There is a lack of staff at the bar, in the kitchens, and with other suppliers. And we have problems with soft drinks deliveries being late because they don’t have enough distributors.” 

The reasons, according to Del Castillo, are multiple. “These jobs always had to sacrifice weekends. And a lot of people don’t want to work those days now,” he says. In addition, there are far fewer employees from Eastern Europe or South America. Previously, these compensated for the lack of local labour. 

High rents are also a serious problem. Workers from abroad usually cannot afford the high rents in Benidorm and the surrounding area unless they share a home with a few others. 

Hotels are also having trouble getting their workforces up and running. Although 75% of that stock consists of permanent employees, they experience problems once they exceed 90% of their occupancy. And these peaks are now expected even in the less successful sites. 

Hotels close entire floors 

Nuria Montes, a spokesperson for Hosbec, admits that “some hotels have not been able to open all their floors because they have not found the temporary staff needed to meet these spikes in demand”. Who would have thought this a few months ago?

Cogesa Expats

They need cleaners of the apartments and rooms, and staff in the dining rooms and kitchens. Furthermore, these people are hard to find. 

British staff not to return after Brexit 

The problem of the bars that have remained closed during the pandemic and said goodbye to their staff is more difficult to solve. Many UK workers returned to their country and are now discovering that it is very difficult to get work or residence permits due to Brexit. 

Costa del Sol 

The newspaper SUR writes on Wednesday that there are at least 1,000 vacancies in the hospitality sector on the Costa del Sol. There is a great shortage of waiters, cooks, kitchen assistants, dishwashers, maintenance staff, and cleaners, among others. 

Staff shortages

How can there be a lack of labour alone in a province where 140,000 people are unemployed, of whom some 7,000 have hospitality experience? Andrea Santana of employment agency Adecco explains that many people had to find jobs in sectors other than the hospitality industry in the two years that the sector has been shut down due to the pandemic. “When the opportunity came to go back to the hospitality industry, they didn’t want it anymore“. 

Working conditions 

Another reason is the employment conditions. Hospitality jobs often pay poorly and staff is often required to work long days with sometimes only half a day off a week. Moreover, hotels cannot simply pay new staff more than their existing employees because they are bound by collective agreements. 


And then, just like in Costa Blanca, there is the problem of housing. The coasts are very popular in the high season, therefore, that drives prices up. Finding an apartment for rent that matches a catering salary is very difficult, if not impossible. 


Even in generally less touristy Galicia, companies in the sector face the same problems. Before the start of the season, the main catering associations warned that the destination Rías Baixas would need some 3,000 people. This would include waiters, cooks, and a long list of other employees, to accommodate the expected massive arrival of visitors in a summer already being called “historic”. writes that according to data from the public employment offices, there are more than 100,000 vacancies open in Spain and that the hospitality industry is one of the worst affected sectors. 

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