The hotel industry has taken a beating during the pandemic, nowhere more so than in Boston. Through September, Boston-area hotels had the largest declines in occupancy, average daily rate, and revenue per available room — the three major metrics of hotel performance — of any major metropolitan area in the country this year, according to the hospitality data company STR.
Many hotels have reopened, but business is bleak. Occupancy rates are hovering around 25percent in the Boston area, on average, and an estimated 8,000 hotel workers are still unemployed. The city’s largest property, the Sheraton Boston Hotel, near the Hynes Convention Center, is still closed, as is the former Taj Boston (set to reopen as the Newbury Boston) and the Ritz-Carltonon Avery Street. The hotel at the Encore Boston Harbor casino reopened in July but closed in November following new restrictions on operating hours.
Given the drop-off in demand, it’s not surprising hotels aren’t bringing back many employees. Unite Here Local 26, which represents hospitality workers, estimates that only 1,000 of its 6,600 hotel members are back at work. But not offering Marriott Copley workers — who aren’t part of the union — a chance to get their jobs back is “completely unacceptable,” said Local 26 president Carlos Aramayo.
More than 230 workers — some of whom have been at the hotel for more than three decades — and about 30 managers were terminated by the Marriott Copley, according to Local 26 estimates, and a group of employees recently sent the company a letter demanding that they be first in line for their jobs once demand returns and that they receive one week of severance pay for every year of service, in line with past practices. (Current offers were capped at 10weeks, instead of the previous 26.)
“They feel that they’ve been thrown out on the street, effectively, in the middle of this crisis,” Aramayo said.
The Marriott Copley Place’s general manager, Alan Smith, said the hotel is available to address employees’ questions and provide support. “Our hotel has experienced unprecedented business impact due to the pandemic,” he wrote in an e-mail. “Throughout this timeframe, we have maintained open communications with our valued employees. Many are now reviewing severance offers, which are competitive within the industry.”
Tchoumi, the concierge attendant, was offered eight weeks of severance for her 17 years of service. She is the only source of income for her family, she said, and her unemployment is about to run out; the rental income from her family’s house in Lynn has also disappeared because their tenants can’t pay. Continuing to send money to her family in Cameroon, where a civil war is raging, is out of the question.
“I am left with nothing — no job and barely enough money to survive,” said Tchoumi, whose son also lost his job setting up meetings at the hotel; her husband retired in January after 18 years of working banquets there. “They told us we were all a family. That is not