Restaurant, Hospitality Professionals on Governor’s Task Force Discuss Reopening Tourism Industry

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Restaurant, Hospitality Professionals on Governor’s Task Force Discuss Reopening Tourism Industry

Wed, 04/22/2020 - 18:55
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By LISA MACNEIL

[email protected]

Dana Young, President & CEO, Visit Florida hosted a conference call on Tuesday, April 21, 2020 which included several restaurant and hospitality executives from around the state.  With tourism being a large portion of Florida’s economy, the group focused on how to bolster the industry’s image as attractive, inviting and safe.  Hospitality has been critically affected by COVID-19.

According to data provided by STR Inc, the week of March 1 began a steep decline in the year over year change in hotel demand (number of hotel room nights sold), falling from roughly -6% March 1 to -70% March 22.

Florida’s Food Services category alone makes up 38.8% percent of Florida's jobs. A large part of Florida Tourism -- though not only confined to large corporations such as Disney -- 182,000 of these jobs come from small and medium sized businesses.

Of the task force, the phone call included John Tolbert of Boca Raton Resort & Club, Jose Cil of Restaurant Brands International, and Len Brown of the PGA (Professional Golfer’s Association) Tour, and Cody Kahn, owner of the Holiday Inn Resort.

While the timing is not certain, the reopening of Florida’s tourism industry will take place in three phases.  Recalling workers and determining technical changes was discussed as the first.  Changes such as building capacity, spacing between guests and patrons, and personal protection are in the top three topics that will be addressed going forward.

Tolbert emphasized that the primary focus will be “around the health and well-being of our team members coming back, then, of course, our club members.”  He added that the biggest tragedy would be if nothing changes.

Restaurant Brands International owns recognizable brands such as Burger King, Popeyes and Tim Horton’s.  These companies have been deemed “essential services” since the Stay-At-Home order went into effect, and have already instituted changes in procedures and behaviors in the workplace.  Cil cited “Creativity and innovation -- always important -- but more important in a moment like this” and listed changes in his restaurants, such as enhanced hygiene, employee temperatures monitored upon arriving at work.

Also discussed was a certification program to boost public confidence.  Cil stated that he had collected data on suspected COVID-19 infections following the implementation of the new cleanliness practices, and would provide those to Governor DeSantis following the meeting.

Cody Kahn commented that those best practices or guidelines need to be realistic and simple to follow.  Many hospitality businesses don’t have the resources to put in place sophisticated measures and workers need to have easy to follow guidelines.   

Those on the call agreed that it will be necessary to open up Florida’s beaches once again, because there won’t be anyone booking hotel stays if they can’t go to the beach.  On Friday April 17, Governor DeSantisallowed Florida beaches to reopen if they could do so safely.

Members of DeSantis’ Task Force Working Group are: 

  • Dana Young, President & CEO, VISIT FLORIDA
  • Secretary Halsey Beshears, Secretary, Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation
  • Secretary Kevin Thibault, Secretary, Florida Department of Transportation
  • Mayor Lenny Curry, Mayor, Jacksonville
  • Mayor David Kerner, Mayor, Palm Beach County
  • Sheldon Suga, Chairman, Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association
  • Blake Casper, CEO, Caspers Company
  • Amy Schwartz, Owner, Bella Bella Restaurant
  • Collier Merrill, President, Merrill Land Company
  • Philip Goldfarb, President & COO, Fontainebleau Miami Beach
  • John Tolbert, President & Managing Director, Boca Resort and Club
  • Jose Cil, CEO, Restaurant Brands International
  • Josh D’Amaro, President, Walt Disney World Resort
  • John Sprouls, CEO, Universal Orlando Resort, Executive Vice President, Universal Parks & Resorts
  • Tim Petrillo, Co-Founder & CEO, The Restaurant People
  • Dev Motwani, President & CEO, Merrimac Ventures
  • Chad Harrod, CEO, Harrod Properties, Inc.
  • Walter Carpenter, Chairman, NFIB Florida Leadership Council
  • Len Brown, Executive Vice President & Chief Legal Officer, PGA Tour, Inc
  • Gary Lester, Vice President, The Villages for Community Relations
  • Glen Gilzean, President & CEO, Central Florida Urban League
  • Max Alvarez, President, Sunshine Gasoline Distributors, Inc.
  • Tom Crowley, CEO, Crowley Maritime Corporation
  • Joe Lopano, CEO, Tampa International Airport
  • Ted Christie III, President & CEO, Spirit Airlines
  • Rick Sasso, President & CEO, MSC Cruises
  • Maury Gallagher Jr., Chairman & CEO, Allegiant Air
  • AJ de Moya, Vice President & General Manager, The de Moya Group, Inc.
  • Paul Anderson, CEO, Port Tampa Bay
  • Ken Stiles, CEO, Stiles Corporation
  • Bob Flowers, President, C.W. Roberts Contracting, Inc.
  • Rob Kornahrens, President & CEO, Advanced Roofing and Green Technologies
  • Monesia Brown, Director of Public Affairs and Government Relations, Walmart
  • Cody Kahn, Owner, Holiday Inn Resort
  • Matthew Caldwell, President & CEO, Florida Panthers Hockey Club

The Executive Committee :

  • Lieutenant Governor Jeanette Nuñez, Lieutenant Governor of Florida
  • Jimmy Patronis, Florida Chief Financial Officer
  • Ashley Moody, Florida Attorney General
  • President Bill Galvano, President, Florida Senate
  • Speaker Jose Oliva, Speaker, Florida House of Representatives
  • Senator Wilton Simpson, President-Designate, Florida Senate
  • Representative Chris Sprowls, Speaker-Designate, Florida House of Representatives
  • Commissioner Richard Corcoran, Commissioner of Education
  • Jamal Sowell, President & CEO, Enterprise Florida, Inc.
  • Mayor Carlos Gimenez, Mayor, Miami-Dade County
  • Mayor Dale Holness, Mayor, Broward County
  • Mayor David Kerner, Mayor, Palm Beach County
  • John Couris, President & CEO, Tampa General Hospital
  • Josh D’Amaro, President, Walt Disney World Resort
  • Todd Jones, CEO, Publix Super Markets
  • Syd Kitson, Chairman, Board of Governors for the State University System
  • Paul Reilly, Chairman & CEO, Raymond James Financial
  • Alex Sanchez, President & CEO, Florida Bankers Association
  • Eric Silagy, President & CEO, Florida Power & Light Company
  • John Sprouls, CEO, Universal Orlando Resort, Executive Vice President, Universal Parks & Resorts
  • Patrick Sunderlin, Vice President, Global Supply Chain, Lockheed Martin Corporation
  • Joe York, President, AT&T Florida and Caribbean
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