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As Mass. economy reopens, more layoffs in hospitality industry

Hotels hard hit by the all but halted travel during the coronavirus pandemic are now laying off workers in worrying numbers.David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

The long-term economic toll of the coronavirus is coming into sharper focus, as job losses mount in Massachusetts hotels and restaurants even as businesses try to reopen.

New numbers from the state on Friday show that local hotels continue to reduce their staff — The Mandarin Oriental Boston Hotel filed a layoff notice with the state for 138 workers on June 9, and Bostonian Boston Hotel cut 83 a week prior. The recent job reductions come on the heels of enormous losses in March and April, which some thought might be temporary.

More layoffs and business closures in May and June suggest what many have predicted since early on in the pandemic: A lot of jobs will not be coming back soon. And ongoing losses across the hospitality industry — which employs many people of color — come as the nation reckons with systemic inequalities across race and class.

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It is unclear whether the reported numbers represent furloughs or layoffs, but the largest losses have occurred at the Sheraton Boston Hotel and the Marriott Copley Place Hotel, which both cut about 550 jobs in March, and the Boston Park Plaza Hotel which shed about 500. Data compiled by the Globe indicate that since March, more than 3,500 hotel workers in the Boston area have been out of work.

The Massachusetts Lodging Association estimates that almost 50 hotels are closed in the Boston area, in addition to more than 500 across the state.

Meanwhile, the future for many restaurants, despite the start of outdoor dining this week, doesn’t look much better.

On Friday, Bob Luz, the president and chief executive of the Massachusetts Restaurant Association, provided the state Senate with sobering statistics during a virtual listening session. He said his group predicts that 3,600 of the state’s 16,000 restaurants will not survive the pandemic.

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“When [restaurants] reopen, that recovery is going to be extremely slow,” Luz said. “We have known that the whole time."

The Four Seasons, a five-star property on Boylston Street across from the Boston Public Garden, originally put employees on furlough, but last month let go of 192 workers, or half of its staff.

“To have a major industry displace from the economy large numbers of Black and Brown workers... that is the last thing we need in this moment in our country," said Carlos Aramayo, president of Unite Here Local 26, a hospitality workers union.

As evident at the luxury hotel, some early furloughs are likely to turn into permanent layoffs. Of the 29 hotels that have submitted job reduction notices with the state, the bulk were filed in March in Boston, when business and travel came to a halt and employees began working from home.

“My big anxiety is that what happened at The Four Seasons is the tip of the iceberg,” Aramayo said. “Hospitality employers are going to use the economic turndown to permanently reduce the size of their staff, eliminate jobs that are never going to come back."

The trend of recent job reductions across the hospitality industry offers a grim outlook for the economy as businesses begin to reopen. It suggests that some companies are not expecting much business to return anytime soon.

"The industry is not betting on the future of our great city... We are going to get through this, and we want events happening in our city because they generate revenue and income for people,” Aramayo said.

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The Globe is keeping a live tracker on layoffs and furloughs in the state with data compiled from news releases, state notices, and other reporting.


Anissa Gardizy can be reached at anissa.gardizy@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @anissagardizy8 and on Instagram @anissagardizy.journalism.