MIAMI (CBSMiami) – A new study released by Florida International University’s Chaplin School Of Hospitality and Tourism, in collaboration with the Greater Miami Convention and Visitor’s Bureau says Miami-Dade County hotels and restaurants have taken a $3.36 billion dollar revenue hit from COVID-19.

Eric Beckman, an assistant professor at FIU, is the lead author of the study.

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“That $3.36 billion, is an indicator of how reliant our local economy is on the hospitality and travel industry. It shows when something like this happens and things close down, that are hotels and restaurants a lot and a lot of our employees in those areas are strongly affected,” Beckman said.

The study, based on shutdowns from March through August, also shows that the revenue losses had a huge ripple down effect as well.

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“Also, that $3.36 billion loss is revenue loss for other associated industries that work with hotels, that work with restaurants. We look at catering companies and linen companies and other companies that do business with hotels and restaurants,” he explained.

Thomas Zarikian is the CEO of EB Hotels, a luxury business hotel brand with 11 locations, mostly in South America.

The first opened in Miami near the airport in 2016. Last year, thanks to the Super Bowl and other events Zarikian says business was booming.

“Unfortunately, when we got hit with a pandemic, it’s kind of like switching off the light switch in your room. You go from completely light to dark,” Zarikian said.

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“Within a day or two after the pandemic hit, we saw occupancy dropped from 90 percent which is usually what we have in the high season. Right after the pandemic hit, we saw 90 percent dropped to almost zero. I think we barely had any guests.”

The study also found that COVID-19 can be blamed for $1.2 billion dollars in loss of employee income to Miami-Dade County hotel and restaurant workers from March through August.

They were forced to lay off employees at the EB Hotel. Slowly now, things are improving. They currently have half the staff they had before the pandemic.

“We have 133 rooms and we went down to 10 rooms a day average in March and then slowly we started getting the next month maybe 15 to 20 rooms. Right now, we are averaging around 60 rooms a day. This is much better than we were in March but nothing close to what we were in a season without the pandemic,” he said.

Both men say, although these numbers are shocking they are seeing an upward trend and have faith in the coming months things will continue to get better.

“People are coming back to work and people are traveling to South Florida now. People are trying to go back to restaurants and we are learning to live with the new normal,” said Beckman.

“We are hoping, because it can’t last forever, at some point it has to end,” said Zakarian.

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Consumer confidence is the name of game, along with mitigation of future outbreaks and of course, the much-anticipated vaccine will play a factor in getting the hospitality industry back on track as fast as possible.

Lisa Petrillo