By Fabian Osorio / Staff Writer
The current pandemic has already started to have a major impact on the state’s largest industry, tourism.
Florida receives millions of international tourists and the Port of Miami is, for many, the beginning of tropical vacation experience, but tourism and travel make it easier for the novel coronavirus to spread.
88,631 hotel-related jobs have been lost in the state, and over 300,000 jobs supporting the hotel industry have been wiped out in Florida due to the virus, according to the American Hotel and Lodging Association.
According to Worldomenter statistics, Florida had reported 338 total cases of coronavirus as of March 18.
Miami-Dade County declared local State of Emergency on March 17, 2020, authorizing the closure of any or all bars, taverns and other business establishments where alcoholic beverages are predominantly sold.
The Miami Mayor, Carlos A. Gimenez, tweeted on March 17 that he had signed an order earlier that day to close restaurants, bars, gyms, and theaters where more than 8 people can gather at a time. He was aware that the owners and their employees would be financially impacted, but it was the only way to prevent new cases of the virus.
Liban Balmaceda, a junior student of Broadcast Media, said that so far coronavirus has affected many aspects of his life.
“I work in the tourism industry and my job has been affected. My employer has reduced the hours for all employees and possibly the hotel could close because of its low occupancy,” he said. “There are rumors that my employer could close the hotel next week possibly for a couple of months. The hotel is running at 20% occupancy.”
Balmaceda is worried about the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic, especially when it comes to his income and parents.
“I am a massage therapist and do not make an hourly wage. I get paid only for massage treatments after I complete my work. Customer appointments have been declining in the last 3 weeks,” he said.
After work, Balmaceda stops at his parents’ home to make sure that they have all that they need. They are over sixty years old, and he thinks that it is dangerous for them to go out.
Balmaceda said that his community residents in Naples were scared and world chaos had already started. He has stocked his food pantry for a full month. He hopes that this would be enough.
“We have a clubhouse that was always full and now there is nobody there. It seems like anything that requires gathering around other people is out of the question,” he said. “Businesses are closing, and people are losing their jobs. Everyone is afraid of spending money.”
Airlines are one of the hardest-hit travel industries due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Cancellations of trips have increased, and airlines started to offer lower fares to hope to slow down money refunds.
“I am sure that a number of fearless travelers will take advantage of lower fares, but I also don’t think they’ll stay low for long,” said Dr. John Buschman, Director of Assessments & Accreditation of FIU Business of Hospitality. “Fares are determined by computer programs that consider a lot of different parameters but often you will find that they correlate with the percentage of seats being sold on an aircraft.”
Dr. Buschman said that the travelers who respond to the price reduction will be those that do not fear traveling and want to take advantage that they can now afford to go somewhere they have always wanted to visit.
He also said that hotels and car rentals use the same type of computer programs to determine their daily rate.
“I expect there will be some real bargain vacations to be had,” he said. “I would not recommend anyone to travel at the moment unless it is very important such as just to get to your home or place of work.”
Traveling is not a priority for Balmaceda. He tries to stay at home as much as he can.
“Travel is not in my plans for now. It is just not safe for now.”
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