(The Center Square) – Indiana's tourism and hospitality industry suffered greatly due to the COVID-19 pandemic and a recent report by Ball State University is recommending the state help save the industry.
Patrick Tamm, the president and CEO of the Indiana Restaurant & Lodging Association (InRLA), said the industry has employed roughly 13 percent of Hoosiers.
"When the pandemic occurred, just hotels directly laid off 50,000 people," Tamm said in an interview with Center Square. "Restaurants laid off 210,000 people."
Those who rely on the tourism industry for a job is exponentially larger, Tamm said.
"Nearly 800,000 in Marion County rely on tourism for their income and right now there is no tourism," Tamm said. "You’re about a week away from federal unemployment to end which represents a double-edged sword for us with regard to getting people back to work."
Tamm said as some of the restaurants and hotels try to reopen, it is with significantly fewer staff.
"We continue to see restaurants struggle," Tamm said. "The challenge is their financial model is using this week's sales to pay last week's bills so your cash reserves in restaurants have, traditionally, been very small and then a lot of restaurants went from very busy to zero in a day."
Tamm said restaurants had perishable products that they were able to donate so they wouldn't go bad, but that was done at a loss.
"After 9/11 we saw about 400,000 [tourism-related] jobs lost across the country," Tamm said. "From 2007 to 2009 with the recession, we saw about 450,000 jobs lost. Right now, nationwide we have lost about 3.9 million jobs."
The country has not seen those types of numbers since the Great Depression and it has now even surpassed the numbers from the Great Depression, he added.
"So we're trying to get people back on planes and traveling, doing business travel and meeting people is a challenge, which we recognize is a challenge, but at the same time, it's critical for the hotel business," Tamm said.
The best any hotel did in Indianapolis in April was 25 rooms.
"Basically throughout this, we’ve seen FedEx pilots and crew staying in hotels as needed," Tamm said. "We didn't see many airline pilots, but that is through what is called contracted rooms."
Tamm said they're slowly starting to see some bounce because of things like youth sports.
Tamm said what's hard is that hotels and restaurants can't make up for what they lost when everything was completely shut down.
"It’s just like with my barber, I can see him again, but he can’t get back the 3+ [months of] haircuts from when he was closed," Tamm said. "When we were closed, we can’t make that up in a restaurant or hotel."
Tamm said restaurants and hotels have added pressures because they still have restrictions in place.
"Capacities are limited, social distancing is in place, which is understandable," Tamm said. "We’ve launched a partnership with the state called Hoosier Hospitality Promise to try to encourage and educate people on what the industry is doing and what we ask of customers and guests."
The report from Ball State notes that the industry's economic recovery will require a "strong governmental response" to ensure there are visitors to the state to help the industry.