Marriott furloughing tens of thousands of hotel workers as bookings plunge

By Kate Gibson

/ MoneyWatch

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Marriott International is readying to furlough tens of thousands of workers amid mass cancellations by would-be travelers due to the coronavirus outbreak.

"As travel restrictions and social distancing efforts around the world become more widespread, we are experiencing significant drops in demand at properties globally with an uncertain duration," Marriott said in an emailed statement. "We are adjusting global operations accordingly which has meant either reduction in hours or a temporary leave for many of our associates at our properties,"

The world's biggest hotel chain said its employees would keep their health benefits for now and are eligible for short-term disability pay from Marriott "should they get sick," according to the company, which employs about 130,000 in the United States.

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The hotel giant expressed optimism that its business would return once the pandemic ebbs. "While the ultimate impact is difficult to predict at this time given the fluidity of the situation, we remain confident in our long-term prospects," Marriott stated.

Marriott began closing some of the hotel properties it manages last week, including the Marriott Long Wharf in Boston, which shuttered on Thursday in the "interest of public health," according to the Boston Globe.

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The Boston hotel had hosted a corporate conference at the end of February that drew Biogen executives, bankers and investment analysts from around the globe, a gathering that soon yielded multiple cases of coronavirus in Massachusetts and beyond, the newspaper reported. A hotel worker was among those to recently test positive for Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

About a quarter of Marriott's roughly 375 properties in mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macau remain closed due to the coronavirus outbreak, Arne Sorenson, the company's president and CEO, told a call with Wall Street analysts last week.

First published on March 17, 2020 / 3:48 PM

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