Bleak Economic Outlook For Tourism-Heavy South Florida

Experts with FIU's Perez Metropolitan Center forecast hardest hit will be low-wage, less educated, women and the young who rely on the hospitality and tourism industries, while chamber of commerce president predicts one in five small businesses will fail.

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Economists at the International Monetary Fund are calling it the Great Lockdown, and predict it will cause more economic harm than the Great Recession.

In South Florida, experts with Florida International University's Perez Metropolitan Center Wednesday presented a bleak picture, as well -- with the brunt of the hardships predicted for those who can least afford it.

The three main takeaways from the FIU webinar on what South Florida can expect:

  • rapid employment loss in key industry centers;
  • huge one-month earning losses in Miami's hotel and cruise lines industries; and
  • potentially devastating social impacts, particularly in communities of color.

On a day when Royal Caribbean announced it was laying off or furloughing a quarter of its workforce, and Trump National Doral revealed it has cut more than 500 jobs after it was forced to shut down, the FIU think tank focused on the economic fallout from a reeling tourism industry.

But in London, the IMF's top economist Wednesday made clear the effects of the Great Lockdown go deeper than that.

"This is a deep recession," said chief economist Gita Gopinath. "It is a recession that involves solvency issues. It is a deep recession that involves unemployment rates going up dramatically and these tend to leave scars."

Scars that Dr. Ned Murray, FIU Metropolitan Center's associate director, said will run deeper among those who rely most on tourism and hospitality jobs.

"These are also sectors ... and occupations that are predominantly held by women, the young and the less educated, so they will be disproportionately impacted," he said.

Robert Goltz, president of the Miramar-Pembroke Pines chamber of commerce, said he expects one in five small businesses would fail in coming months.

"Most of them don’t have finances to make it past 30 days, others 60 days," Goltz said.

The cascading effects of business failures in the tourism-dependent South Florida economy will have impact beyond just that sector, said the center's assistant director, Dr. Maria Ilcheva.

She said it will have "potential devastating society impacts, specifically in communities of color, minorities in general ... and households in the lower income categories."

Not all was doom and gloom, though, as FIU's experts said the crisis could also present opportunities down the road -- though it may be a long and bumpy one.

Among the suggested changes:

  • Improve access to business ownership, especially among those in disadvantaged communities;
  • moving workplaces closer to workforce, to reduce commute times; and
  • diversifying the economy so it is not as reliant on just one sector -- tourism.

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