As of early May, there have been over 33 million unemployment claims filed in the US. The state of Georgia accounts for over 1.6 million of those initial claims and is considered one of the hardest-hit states by the COVID-19 pandemic. The state’s hotel industry is feeling the worst of it with occupancy levels plummeting to below 20% and an estimated 24,000 hotel terminations due to the pandemic.
The Hotel Industry is one of the top-earning industries in the nation. It generates billions of dollars in revenue and provides millions of jobs annually. Not since 9/11 has the travel industry witness such a noticeable decline. Corona Virus Disease 2019, better known as COVID-19, has caused the entire world to change its course. Countries are encouraging their citizens to stay home and are by placing six feet distancing guidelines on social interactions. These guidelines have had a severe impact on the Travel and Hospitality Industries causing an instant halt on travel.
“The hotel industry usually goes through a slow phase in November and December, due to the holidays. People opt to stay with family during that time,” says Dory Loder, former Front Desk Supervisor at Aloft Atlanta Downtown. She recalls how excited she was earlier this year for the upcoming Spring Season. “Springtime is when things pick back up and people flood the city. Back then, it was only an outbreak and the epicenter was still in Italy.”
It is no surprise that the threat of a pandemic may have been taken lightly by some. The last pandemic reported by WHO or the World Health Organization was over 11 years ago. It was called the H1N1 flu and often referred to as the swine flu. In 2009, H1N1 caused at least 150,000 deaths worldwide, including 13,000 US deaths and 275,000 hospitalized Americans. Most people thought they would never see another pandemic in their lifetime. Especially not one so aggressive that it has caused lifestyle changes globally.
“By January, things were normal. I remember our numbers for March and April were looking particularly good.” The hotel is across from the AmericasMart, a massive wholesale market that takes up seven million square feet of Downtown Atlanta, and is blocks away from the Georgia World Congress Center, another massive structure with over 4 million feet of space, that hosts tournaments and conventions. “We were expecting the annual MODEX convention. We were received a good amount of business from that event,” recalls Dory.
“It wasn’t until February that we began to notice some problems due to COVID-19. Besides all the automatic hand sanitizer stations that were set up all over the hotel, another noticeable change was the amount of phone calls coming through to the hotel. Companies had begun to call and inquire about their company’s reservations. Most wanted to know about our cancellation policies for the MODEX convention”
During the beginning of February, the COVID-19 outbreak was gaining momentum and many companies were beginning to feel the pressure to protect their employees. Companies began restricting business travel that was not considered a necessity. This had a huge impact on the MODEX 2020 convention.
MODEX was expecting about 950 exhibitors and over 30,000 people to come to Atlanta for the annual event. Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 crisis, most big-name exhibitors began to cancel appearances and many attendees canceled their plans altogether. By the beginning of March, changes became more visible and the impact that the pandemic would have on the hospitality industry would become more apparent.
Last-minute schedule changes, major reductions in hours, and layoffs had started to spread across the hotel industry. “The first round of layoffs that I heard about was in the Sales Department at most properties. Then the layoffs and furloughs made their way around to all departments. I lost my job on March 25th. I came into work and was told that they had to let me go. I know they tried to keep me on schedule, but we were getting 15 or 16 rooms occupied at under 10% occupancy for over a week. I knew it was coming.”
Turning Lemons into Lemonade
With extra time on her hands and a willingness to not let the pandemic break her spirit, Dory decided to focus all her attention on starting her Freelance Writing Business. “I went to school for Communications and Journalism, so I already have formal training. Plus, no matter what job I was working, I would find a way to write something or design some type of content for the company. In other words, I always knew this was what I wanted to do.”
Dory Dearest LLC is all about providing Entry Level Professionals and Small Businesses with the content and resources they need to reach their target audience and to achieve revenue goals. “I want to work with people that are just starting out professionally or changing careers. I want to help them meet their career goals. I provide resume and cover letter services, content and copywriting services, and other formats of business resources. If it’s not fiction, I can write it.”
“Overall, I just want to share what I know. I want to help those who want to help themselves by ensuring that they have a solid professional foundation. Professionals need a good resume and a Small Businesses need a solid business proposal. That just a basic step but also a necessary one However, the most important thing is to make sure you are reaching the right people, using the right tools to benefit yourself or your business. I can help you with that!”
Like most Americans, Dory is unsure of how long it will be before she is working full time again and more unsure about how the COVID-19 Pandemic will affect the economy. Starting her business is something she has always wanted to do and refuses to take this idle time for granted. “Working on Dory Dearest gives me something positive to do during this Pandemic and keeps me hopeful.”
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