LIFESTYLE CENTER

Hilton Garden Inn off Hanes Mall Boulevard while it was under construction in June 2018.

The Triad's hotel industry continues to take significant economic hits from the COVID-19 virus with the temporary closing of the Hilton Garden Inn off Hanes Mall Boulevard and major layoffs at the Twin City Quarter complex in downtown Winston-Salem and Airport Marriott in Greensboro.

The Hilton closing is part of chain-wide initiative by its parent company. The 31,633-square-foot hotel has 112 guest rooms and seven meeting rooms.

"As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and as part of local prevention efforts, this hotel has temporarily suspended operations," according to a post on the Hilton Garden Inn's website. "Although reservations for future dates are available, the hotel is not accepting guests in the near term."

Meanwhile, the operators of Twin City Quarter's Marriott, Embassy Suites and Benton Convention Center entities filed WARN Act notices to the N.C. Commerce Department on Thursday that they have temporarily laid off a combined 169 employees.

The notices are 92 employees for the Marriott property and 77 for Embassy Suites and Benton.

Hospitality Ventures Management Group, based in Atlanta, and Twin City Quarter officials could not be immediately reached for comment on the layoffs.

The notices were filed the day after Winston-Salem Mayor Allen Joines issued Wednesday a shelter-in-place order effective through at least April 16. Forsyth County commissioners issued the same order Thursday.

"I regret the layoffs and know the impact on each of these employees," Joines said.

"Hopefully, the relaxed and enhanced unemployment benefits will be of some help.

"Also the COVID-19 response fund was created to help with hospitality workers who are laid off or had their hours diminished."

Meanwhile, the operators of the Greensboro-High Marriott Airport submitted a WARN notice saying it had laid off 93 employees temporarily as of March 16.

Last week, The O.Henry and Proximity — two of Greensboro’s high-end hotels — closed temporally, along with restaurants Green Valley Grill and Printworks Bistro. Altogether, about 700 employees are affected, according to a WARN notice.

Marcheta Keefer, marketing and communications director for Visit Winston-Salem, said Forsyth County had reported more than 14,000 cancelled room nights through May 31 for conventions and sporting events. That's double the total (7,000) announced March 14.

"While we do know there have been layoffs, we don’t know the full scope, but are asking the hoteliers to report that, too," Keefer said.

Most hotel chains with facilities in the Triad have deferred comments to corporate statements.

The Hilton chain said that "as a result of the novel coronavirus ... the hospitality industry is seeing an impact to business that is unprecedented."

"We are seeing occupancy levels at different hotels impacted in different ways and are working with our hotel owners to evaluate options for each property on a case-by-case basis."

Hilton said it, along with franchise owners, "are currently assessing staffing needs based on a forward view of bookings and their local business environment, as well as collective bargaining agreements and local regulations."

"We are aware of properties implementing various actions, including adopting flexible hours, use of paid time off, shorter weeks, job rotations and, in some cases, furloughs.”

Hyatt announced last week it was implementing furloughs for two-thirds of its 55,000 corporate employees, along with pay cuts that would run from April 1 through May 31. The company did not provide details on the amount of the pay cuts. It also has temporarily closed some of its locations.

"Given the financial impact on our business, we have had to make difficult decisions that both support the safety and wellbeing of our colleagues and guests and protect long-term prospects for Hyatt," the company said in a statement.

Marriott International recently furloughed around two-thirds of its 4,000 corporate employees and tens of thousands of employees at its hotel properties, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The coronavirus has hit Marriott's business worse than 9/11 and the Great Recession combined, chief executive Arne Sorenson told cable news channel CNBC on Tuesday.

“We’re now seeing revenue down 75% plus, ... I suspect nearing a 90% decline in the United States," Sorenson said.

Sorenson said the company took a “furlough approach,” instead of terminating employees, while ensuring the impacted workers are still “eligible for the unemployment insurance and other tools that are out there.”

Hilton said this week it is collaborating with service-sector companies considered essential employers for temporary work placements for their hospitality employees.

Those include retailers with Triad locations such as Amazon, CVS, Lidl and Walgreens. Hilton employees can apply at teammembers.hilton.com/covid19.

"With a diverse range of experience reflected in the eligible candidate pool, these team members are an ideal fit to quickly step in and assist organizations in temporary assignments," Hilton said.

Amazon said March 19 it plans to hire about 100,000 full- and part-time fulfillment center employees nationwide to help “with a significant increase in demand, which means our labor needs are unprecedented for this time of year.”

That includes 2,000 in North Carolina, primarily in Charlotte and the Triangle, but also 50 jobs at its delivery hub in Colfax.

CVS Health said Monday it plans to hire 50,000 people for full-time, part-time and temporary jobs, including store positions, home delivery drivers, distribution workers and customer service representatives.

Walgreens plans to add more than 9,500 full- and part-time and temporary roles, including customer service associates, pharmacy technicians and shift leads.

Harris Teeter plans to hire more than 5,000 employees at stores and distribution centers for full- and part-time work.

rcraver@wsjournal.com

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