As the nation deals with the economic impacts from COVID-19, the pandemic has also taken its toll on Chapel Hill's hospitality and tourism industry.
On July 7, the Carolina Inn filed a WARN Act notice with the state Department of Commerce stating that the hotel would be extending furloughs for 217 employees.
In the notice, General Manager Mark Sherburne wrote that employees were impacted by temporary furloughs that started back on April 5, but these will now be extended.
“We initially anticipated that employee furloughs at the Hotel would be temporary,” Sherburne wrote. “Due to the sudden, dramatic, and unforeseeable additional impact of this pandemic on our business that is outside of our control, unfortunately, we must now separate some employees permanently and plan for some extended layoffs and furloughs that may exceed 6 months.”
Laurie Paolicelli, the executive director of the Chapel Hill/Orange County Visitors Bureau, said using hotel occupancy as a metric, the hotel industry is down nearly 70 percent, according to reports from April to June.
In an email statement sent to Paolicelli which she then forwarded to The Daily Tar Heel, Sherburne said due to difficulties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, these actions were necessary to maintain business.
“These painful decisions were necessary to preserve the hotel’s business so that we can emerge from this crisis intact and ultimately be in a position to rebuild both our business and our world-class team when the hospitality industry rebounds and when our guests and customers once again choose The Carolina Inn,” he said.
Carolina Inn declined to further comment.
Aaron Nelson, president and CEO of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce, said the levels of occupancy in local hotels have fluctuated during the pandemic.