More than 16,000 Central Florida hotel workers laid off since start of pandemic

Once the epicenter for tourism, today is a near ghost town. Off a record-breaking year, Orlando’s tourism industry is now experiencing its worst year.

“This is a historic recession,” said Sean Snaith, director of the Institute for Economic Forecasting at the University of Central Florida.“The closest historical precedent might have been 9/11, but even that as bad as it was for tourism can’t compare to just pulling the plug on the entire sector, which is what happened here.”

FOX 35 looked through the state’s layoff report and crunched the numbers.

Orlando’s tourism industry was devastated by the pandemic.

Here are some of the layoffs by the numbers:

  • Hilton: 605
  • Hyatt Regency: 220
  • Gaylord Palms: 1,311
  • Marriot World Center: 1,319
  • Swan and Dolphin: 1,999
  • Rosen hotels: 1,948

In total, more than 16,000 local hotel workers have lost their jobs.

That’s just hotel layoffs, not counting restaurants, retail and attractions.

“I did not receive notice, I just did not receive any more phone calls to come to work,” said Donna Gregory, freelance tour guide.

Gregory was working as a tour guide but is out of work indefinitely.

“All of that just sort of dried up with the virus,” Gregory said.

After 30 years in the tourism industry, for the first time, she’s on food stamps.

“Which is such a crazy thing for me to even say, that I get food stamps,” Gregory said.

She never imagined such a drastic downturn.

“It just kept getting better and better, every year, there were more and more companies who wanted to hire you and you had so much room for advancement in the hospitality/tourism business. It just seemed that we were invincible,” Gregory said.

We asked Snaith if Orlando could be the Detriot of this recession because of its dependency on tourism?

“We’re feeling it more than other areas because we do have a large tourism sector, but when you think about Detroit, there really was no turnaround, per se, when the changes to the automotive industry happened. That city never really recovered. Orlando will recover from COVID-19,” Snaith said.