Coronavirus: Thousands laid off as South Florida hospitality industry suffers badly amid pandemic

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. – The hospitality industry is crucial to South Florida's economy.

As hotels try to lure back tourists, and their money, many of the workers at those establishments who still have their jobs are wondering if it's safe to go back to work.

Hotel employees are among those hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

So far, thousands have been furloughed since March, and now many are learning their layoffs will be permanent.

Alan Betancourt is one of thousands of hotel workers in South Florida wondering what’s next.

The Faena Hotel on Collins Avenue, where he works as a beach server just, announced mass layoffs on the way.

“I’m really nervous,” Betancourt said. “I don’t see a future for hospitality at this point. We don’t know how long this pandemic is going to last.”

In a letter dated July 10th that was obtained by Local 10 News, the hotel said due to the pandemic it will "permanently layoff" 220 employees come September.

For now, Betancourt said he’s been told he’s furloughed, again.

“If I don’t get called back, that’s it. I’m already fired basically they pre-fired us,” he said.

The pandemic has hit hotels hard across South Florida. According to filings with the state, in late June the Fontainebleau announced more than 1300 workers would be laid off, citing a rapid decline in bookings and thousands of cancellations.

A similar struggle at the Diplomat in Hollywood, which announced 915 layoffs.

Betancourt said when hotels opened their doors after closing down in March, they did so with reduced staff while being forced to navigate new safety protocols and manage guests who didn’t always follow guidelines.

“We were basically, all day we were doing about five different job titles,” he said. “They’re literally people not wearing face masks, they’re not social distancing, they’re looking to party.

“I’m really nervous right now. I just had my first son. He was born recently and now I have no idea what’s in store for me.”

Other major hospitality businesses affected right now are the Mandarin Oriental, which is laying off 180 workers, the JW Marriott Turnberry Resort in Aventura is laying off more than 300 and in South Beach, Story Nightclub announced it’s laying off 109 employees.

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