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500,000 US hotel jobs won't return this year, lodging group says

Trevor Fraser, Orlando Sentinel on

Published in Business News

Even as tourists return to popular destinations, a new report says nearly 500,000 hotel jobs lost in the United States during the pandemic will not return this year.

The American Hotel and Lodging Association released their midyear report with two key findings: One in five of the lodging jobs lost nationwide would not come back by next January, and revenues will be off by $44 billion nationwide from their highs in 2019.

In a state-by-state breakdown, the organization estimated that Florida would be missing more than 44,000 hotel jobs by year’s end. The report did not give a breakdown of Florida’s revenue loss.

Preliminary June numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed more than a million jobs in leisure and hospitality in the state, down 210,000 from the high point in February 2020.

The picture, however, might not be as dire for metro Orlando. In the second week of July, the revenue per available room in the area was $95.87, a 15% increase over the same time in 2019, according to hotel analysts STR.

Orlando’s occupancy rate was still down slightly from July 2019, 72% now versus 76% but was above the current national rate of 67.2%.

Casandra Matej, president and CEO of Visit Orlando, said the employment problems hotels in Orlando, Fla., are seeing are not from a lack of visitors. “We’re recovering at a pace ahead of what we even thought,” she said.

She says hotels are self-restricting their occupancy rates because of a lack of applicants for open positions. “We’re trying to get the word out that there a lot of good job openings out there,” she said.

 

The missing piece in tourism-dependent Florida is business travel, said Carol Dover, Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association president.

Echoing a sentiment she expressed in Orlando last month, Dover wrote in a statement that “Despite impressive recovery in leisure travel, business travel — the main source of income for hotels — is still down significantly, cruises are not operating, and the labor shortage crisis is crippling the ability to operate at adequate capacity.”

More than 10,000 hotel workers in metro Orlando were laid off or furloughed during the pandemic, and all the theme parks closed, resulting in thousands of more layoffs in the hospitality industry.

Many Central Florida hotels reopened last summer, and since the rollout of the vaccines, have seen an increase in business and held job fairs for new hires. Hotel and timeshare chains such as Westgate have said they have rehired most of their former employees.

The American Hotel and Lodging Association has been urging Congress to consider legislative action to protect the industry, including passing the Save Hotel Jobs Act, which would provide $20 billion to hotels to cover payrolls.

The organization is also pushing to establish per diem rates for government travel based on 2019 hotel rates rather than using the past year.

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