November 28, 2021

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These Tourist-Related Tampa Bay Businesses Had To Lay Off People

TAMPA BAY, FL — Even as Gov. Ron DeSantis launches the first phase of his plan to reopen Florida, Florida’s hospitality industry said the economic impacts of the coronavirus has been so severe that it could take years, not months, to recover.

Hoteliers throughout the Tampa Bay area are calling for federal assistance to enable employees laid off from the lodging industry to quickly qualify for state unemployment assistance, as well as access federal subsidies that can help pay for housing costs, grocery bills, medical supplies and more until hotels reopen for business and rehire their staffs.

Ron McAnaugh, president of the Hillsborough County Hotel Motel Association and general manager of the Marriott Water Street Tampa Hotel, and Bob Morrison, HCHMA executive director, are urging elected officials to help free up financial resources that frustrated unemployed workers have been waiting weeks to collect.

“As employers, our hotel general managers have done everything that they can do to assist these valued employees. Many have been with our organizations for years and have become like family to us,” said McAnaugh. “We need answers and immediate action so that when we get calls asking us what they can do or where they can turn for help, we can give them the information they need and help them provide for themselves and their families. This is a devastating and emotional issue for them as well as for us.”

Hotel workers were among the first wave of layoffs when the spread of the coronavirus forced businesses to temporarily shut down. When restrictions are lifted and hotels are ready to reopen, Morrison said it will still be a struggle for the hospitality to fully re-staff and resume operations.

“We need help expediting unemployment payments for these employees who so badly need to purchase basics like food and will face possible eviction if they can’t cover deferred rent payments when restrictions are lifted and evictions are allowed,” said Morrison. “We need our entire legislative delegation to speak up, stand with us and find a way to help make these funds available ASAP.”

With tourism being Florida’s top industry and major employer, restrictions on travel during the coronvirus pandemic has had a devastating impact on the hotel industry, theme parks, travel-related services like car rentals as well as mom-and-pop restaurants and retail stores that cater to tourists.

The travel industry has lost a full third of all the jobs lost in the U.S. during the pandemic. The impact on tourism is nine times greater than the 9/11 attacks, according to new data released by the U.S. Travel Association and the analytics firm Tourism Economics.

The report estimated that eight million jobs have been lost out of approximately 24 million travel-related jobs in the U.S. Travel spending losses are on track to top half a trillion dollars by the end of 2020.

Overall travel spending has plunged to $2.9 billion a week, an 85 percent drop since the first week of March and 87 percent lower than the same week in 2019, according to a separate analysis by Tourism Economics.

About 90 percent of travelers surveyed had some type of travel or travel-related activity planned prior to the coronavirus outbreak and 80 percent of those either canceled or postponed those plans, according to survey data from MMGY Travel Intelligence.

Another survey by the personal finance website Wallethub showed that the Florida tourism industry ranks sixth in the country for being the hardest hit by the coronavirus behind Hawaii, Montana, Nevada, Vermont and Massachusetts, noting that Florida is ranked fourth in the country for dependence on tourism dollars.

“The health crisis has rightly occupied the public’s and government’s attention, but a resulting catastrophe for employers and employees is already here and going to get worse,” Dow said. “Travel-related businesses employ 15.8 million Americans, and if they can’t afford to keep their lights on, they can’t afford to keep paying their employees. Without aggressive and immediate disaster relief steps, the recovery phase is going to be much longer and more difficult, and the lower rungs of the economic ladder are going to feel the worst of it.”

Visit Florida

Dow noted that 83 percent of travel employers are small businesses. He believes the estimated losses by the travel industry alone are severe enough to push the U.S. into a protracted recession, lasting at least three quarters.

The projected 4.6 million travel-related jobs lost would, by themselves, nearly double the U.S. unemployment rate (3.5 percent to 6.3 percent), he said.

“This situation is completely without precedent,” Dow said. “For the sake of the economy’s long-term health, employers and employees need relief now from this disaster that was created by circumstances completely out of their control.”

Click here to read the full economic impact report.

He’s appealed to President Donald Trump to establish a Travel Workforce Stabilization Fund, provide an Emergency Liquidity Facility for travel businesses and optimize Small Business Administration loan programs.

According to a Visit Florida, because of the coronavirus, hotels are facing a 77.4 percent decrease in demand, a $365.4 million decrease in revenue and an 81.4 decrease in vacation rental bookings statewide.

The economic impact goes well beyond the tourism industry.

Information compiled by Visit Tampa Bay noted that every dollar spent by area visitors generates about 30 cents for local hotels, leaving roughly 70 cents per dollar that directly impacts other local businesses like restaurants, retailers, hotel suppliers and transportation companies, among others.

“The hospitality industry is a revenue generator within our community,” said Morrison. “While a rebound strategy is critical, how our member employees are treated now reflects their role in the state’s overall future recovery formula.”

More than a dozen members of the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association have been appointed to the governor’s Reopen Florida Executive Task Force and the Industry Working Group on Tourism, Construction, Real Estate, Recreation, Retail and Transportation to help the industry recover and get Floridians back to work.

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“Hospitality and tourism are the economic engine of Florida, and it is important that we work together to thoughtfully and carefully reopen, revitalize our industry, get our teams employed again and bolster our economy,” said Carol Dover, president and CEO of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association.

“Tourism has always been the lifeblood of Florida,” said Philip Goldfarb, president and COO of the Fontainebleau Miami Beach. “It is now more important than ever that we come together and collaborate on a strategic plan to reopen our state in the safest way possible.”

However, continued layoff filings in tourism-related businesses paint a bleak picture for the industry and its chances of recovery any time soon.

  • This week, rental car company Enterprise announced it is laying off 392 workers in Tampa Bay citing in part the decrease in travel at Tampa International Airport.

  • The Hertz Corp. rental car company laid off 170 people in Tampa.

  • Clearwater-based Hooters restaurant is laying off 679 employees from 11 Hooters in Tampa Bay.

  • Tampa-based Lazydays recreational vehicle sales announced it is laying off 25 percent of its 880 employees.

  • Heartland Hotel Corp., which manages the Hilton Hotel Carillon Park in St. Petersburg, has laid off 150 employees.

  • Hyatt Regency in Sarasota laid off 114 employees in March.

  • The Grand Plaza Hotel in St. Pete Beach laid off 234 workers.

  • Metro Diner, headquartered in Tampa, has furloughed 2,140 employees across the country.

  • 23 Restaurant Services, which operates Ford’s Garage and Yeoman’s Cask & Lion, laid off 1,000 employees.

  • Holy Land Experience Ministries theme park laid off 118 workers.

  • Magnuson Hotel Marina Cove in St. Petersburg laid off 55.

  • Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Tampa let 43 food court workers go.

  • Feld Entertainment based in Palmetto, which puts on shows like Disney on Ice and Monster Jam, laid off 1,464 people.

  • Visit Tampa Bay laid off 40 employees.

  • McKidden Hospitality, which operate dozens of hotels for Marriott, Hilton and Hyatt, laid off hundreds of Tampa Bay hotel workers.

  • The Beachcomber Beach Resort in St. Petersburg laid off 117 employees.

  • Bartaco restaurant laid off more than 200 Tampa Bay employees.

  • Alsco, a linen and uniform rental company, laid off 39 Tampa Bay employees.

  • Cameron Mitchell Restaurants laid off 153 people from Ocean Prime in Tampa.

  • OS Restaurant Services laid of 73 people from Fleming’s on Boy Scout Boulevard and 57 from Sarasota.

  • OS Restaurant Services also laid off 31 from Outback Steakhouse and Carrabba’s Express in Riverview, 18 from Brandon, 29 from Tampa, three from Wesley Chapel and 15 from International Plaza.

  • Marriott St. Petersburg laid off 88 people.

  • Miller’s Ale House on West Columbus Drive let 58 people go; 101 from Fowler Avenue; 70 from Seminole; 56 from St. Petersburg; and 65 from Brandon.

  • NewsLink at Tampa International Airport laid off 57.

This list doesn’t include Tampa Bay hotels, restaurants, entertainment venues, rental car agencies and other tourism-related businesses based in other parts of Florida.

Nor does it include national tourism-based industries like the following:

  • The car rental company ZipCar has laid off 20 percent of its 500 workers.

  • The ridesharing company Lyft had let 982 workers go, about 17 percent of its workforce.

  • Ride-sharing innovator Uber announced it is cutting 3,700 jobs, or 14 percent of its workforce.

  • TripAdvisor, the online travel agency, eliminated 600 jobs in the United States and Canada.

  • Airbnb, the vacation rental company, laid off 1,900 employees, about 25 percent of its workforce.

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This article originally appeared on the Tampa Patch

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