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FSU Researcher: Hospitality Industry Has Seen Demand Shocks Before, And Long-Term Recovery Is Likely

Brynn Anderson
AP Photo

The hospitality industry is one of the largest key sectors of Florida’s economy, and was perhaps the earliest and hardest-hit by COVID-19’s disruption. One researcher who studies the industry says in the long haul, the demand shock caused by COVID-19 closures can be overcome.

Nathan Line, a professor with Florida State University’s Dedman School of Hospitality says in the long-term, a full recovery for the industry is likely. That’s because, he says, it’s built on facilitating human interaction.

“In the end, hospitality is the business of bringing people together, right – whether it’s conferences, vacations, restaurants, attractions, private clubs, weddings – you name it. It’s the hospitality industry that meets one of our society’s greatest needs, which is to socialize with other people,” Line said, nearly a month after some Florida businesses were ordered closed.

“This is why the coronavirus has been so difficult – slowing its progression means we have to temporarily give up that social aspect of human existence.”

Line notes the hospitality industry, nationally, has taken significant hits twice in the past 20 years, both times having recovered.

“The first was, obviously, September 11, 2001. (It) caused a severe decline in the air travel industry, which in turn trickled down to many hotels and restaurants. There were a lot of flight restrictions, and people were simply afraid to fly,” Line told WFSU. “And then in 2008-2009, of course that was the financial crisis, and the Great Recession that ensued.”

There will certainly be difficulties rebounding in the immediate after the state economy opens up – and a key balance needs to be considered, Line says.

“When it’s ultimately safe to re-open the industry – I think it’s important to realize that staffing is going to have to keep pace with demand growth, and that we kind of make sure our expectations are realistic,” Line said.

“Unfortunately, not everyone is going to get their job back right away. But … the good news is, prior to the pandemic, I think the U.S. economy was fundamentally sound – so there’s reason to be optimistic about a relatively quick and hopefully sustained pattern of growth following the end of this pandemic.”

Governor Ron DeSantis ordered bars and nightclubs in Florida close in mid-March, and directed restaurants move to takeout and delivery only March 20.