Tupelo • The coronovirus is affecting every level of business, and the hotel industry is among the hardest hit.

The American Hotel & Lodging Association says 4 million total jobs have been eliminated already or are on the verge of being lost in the next few weeks.

The hotel industry supports nearly 2.3 million jobs directly and over 8.3 million jobs total (direct hotel operations, guest spending, indirect supply-chain and induced), but drastic declines in occupancy rates will lead to massive job losses for individuals across the industry, the AHLA said.

“Hotel owners are already reporting facing massive, unavoidable layoffs and furloughs,” the group said.

Bruce Patel, the CEO of Fusion Hospitality, oversees a dozen hotel properties, including eight in Northeast Mississippi. Another dozen projects are under development in Mississippi and Tennessee.

“No doubt it’s bad,” he said. “It’s worse than any doomsday scenario could even predict. There’s really no way to be prepared for something of this magnitude. All I now is we will bounce back, but it will take time.”

The AHLA anticipates nearly 44 percent of hotel jobs to be lost nationwide in the coming weeks.

In Mississippi, the industry directly employs 33,708 workers and 80,978 total when including indirect labor. If the estimates of job losses hold out, more than 33,000 total will lose their jobs, including nearly 15,000 directly from hotels.

“The impact to our industry is already more severe than anything we’ve seen before, including Sept. 11th and the great recession of 2008 combined,” said Chip Rogers, AHLA president and CEO. “The White House and Congress can take urgent action to protect countless jobs, provide relief to our dedicated and hardworking employees, and ensure that our small business operators and franchise owners – who represent more than half of hotels in the country – can keep their doors open.”

Patel said seeing the devastation in the industry is hard to stomach.

“It’s like coming home and seeing your house ablaze and no access to water for miles. I worked for 20 years building the company. It’s tough to see. My heart bleeds for the line level employees everywhere.”

dennis.seid@journalinc.com

Twitter: @dennisseid

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