The hospitality industry has taken a major hit during this coronavirus pandemic. Some hotels in the country are on the brink of having to close permanently, but the hotels in our southern counties are in much better shape than most.

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Nearly one out of four hotels in the country reportedly are behind on their mortgage payments, according to the American Hotel & Lodging Association. That’s a record.

“When you add 2,500 additional rooms in the region in the last three, four years it does compound the problem a bit,” Elliott Falcione said.

Some banks are working with hotels on interest-only payments for now.

Falcione is the executive director of the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. He says Manatee County hotels have been recovering well.

“Our community is different than most other areas of the country,” Falcione said. “We have a leisure market coming in, now we have a sports market so we have these arteries of revenue that other communities around the nation don’t have and that’s why some of those properties are going to be in more trouble than counties like ours.”

He believes the WNBA and labor day tournament at the Premier Sports Campus will feed those mainland properties that really need the help.

“And for those hotels or short term rentals that aren’t getting that business, compression will help them out in itself,” Falcione said.

Over in Sarasota, Visit Sarasota says recovery for the hotels on the beach or close to the beach has been better than for others.

“They seem to be doing very well on the weekends, but not so great during the week when you’d typically have business travel, and/or conferences/meetings,” a spokesperson for Visit Sarasota said.

The general manager at the Carlisle Inn, Craig Sterlace, says business is booming.

“The only month we lost was April,” Sterlace said. “May, June, July, even August are great, great months to us considering the situation.”

Sterlace says although business is bouncing back for his hotel, he acknowledges some people are still hurting.

“Just like the restaurant, some restaurants are doing great, other restaurants are doing terrible. I mean it’s the same as the restaurant business right now,” Sterlace said.

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Prior to the pandemic, U.S. hotels supported one in 25 jobs.

“Pre-COVID you had 26,000 hospitality jobs in Manatee County alone,” Falcione said.

In Sarasota, that’s almost double and more than half of those employees were furloughed because of COVID.

A survey conducted by the association that represents all of the U.S. lodging industry shows over a period of four months, 37 percent of hotels have been able to bring back at least half of their full-time employees. This is likely due to an increase in business, but others haven’t been so lucky.

The survey also found 36 percent of hotels have not yet brought back any of their furloughed or laid off staff.

Many are still waiting and hoping to get back to work soon.

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