Summit County lodging companies face additional layoffs, furloughs to cut costs
BRECKENRIDGE — Following the Summit County order for lodging facilities to be vacated by March 19, lodging operations are now making the tough decisions to lay off or furlough employees. On Thursday, March 26, Breckenridge Grand Vacations CEO and co-owner Mike Dudick sent out a video to staff announcing furloughs for about 80% of employees.
“We kept accounting, HR, a skeleton administrative staff and limited housekeeping and engineering because we’re able to perform our spring cleans now versus May,” Dudick said.
Dudick said in mid-March that Breckenridge Grand Vacations would continue to pay all employees while reevaluating on a weekly basis. Now, he is hoping furloughed employees can get by on government aid and continued health insurance coverage through the company, which Dudick and co-owner Mike Millisor will pay for.
Dudick explained that about 75% of employees work in operations, which is running the lodging properties.
“Those jobs won’t resume until resort occupancy restarts,” Dudick said. “From what I understand, most of the other hospitality lodging businesses are in the same position we are.”
Dudick said employees who were furloughed can apply for job-attached unemployment and that he has every intention to “bring them back to work as soon as possible.”
“With the federal stimulus package, our hope is that the majority of employees, along with unemployment benefits, they will not suffer financially,” Dudick said. “Between the furlough commencement and when we reopen the resorts, we hope that this will cover their lost wages during this time.”
Dudick is optimistic the recovery will be swift. Once the company can reopen and it is safe to travel, he thinks people will be eager to come to their timeshare properties, which they already paid for. He thinks it will be a good jumpstart for the local economy as it will bring visitors into town and into the local shops and restaurants.
Breckenridge Lodging Association President Toby Babich said that while some lodging facilities are laying staff off and others are using the state government workshare program, there is no “norm” for this situation.
“Typically, what we would do during a shoulder season … is we retain our staff all the way through because good staff is hard to find, and we’re loyal to our staff here. So we typically won’t lay people off. We just switch gears,” said Babich, who also is president of Breckenridge Resort Managers. “… I think a lot of folks, they’re concerned about the longevity of their business because of the uncertainty of the economy, so they’re preparing for the worst.”
For some, that means laying off staff, particularly guest-facing employees who aren’t able to work right now, said Babich, who added that Breckenridge Resort Managers has not laid off any staff.
“We’re lucky in that we’re more diversified than your typical vacation rental company,” he said. “We’ve pivoted our staff to doing more projects and more maintenance than we typically have them do.”
He said he is cutting expenses in other areas, such as stopping the use of apps and phone systems that are typically used by guests. Babich said he doesn’t anticipate layoffs.
“I’m committed to that until I can’t be anymore,” he said. “Hopefully, that doesn’t happen, but we don’t know what it’s going to look like.”
Looking to the future, Babich said he foresees businesses that won’t be able to survive this setback, even if tourism does ramp up over the summer. But there also will be businesses that are able to carry through even if the summer doesn’t bring many visitors. He said he believes people are going to continue to be in fear of traveling for quite a while and that some of the first business the county will receive likely will come from Front Range travelers who can drive to Summit County.
“That is going to stick with us. It may never leave. We may have some sort of imprint on the travel industry for the foreseeable future,” Babich said.
He also noted that the lodging industry is going to have to rethink sanitization and will need to find ways to demonstrate to guests how each lodging facility is committed to protecting the health of its guests.
“Instead of focusing on the here and now and the aches and pains of having to lay staff off and make financial cuts, we really need to look at the future of the industry,” Babich said. “We need to find out how to reinvent ourselves in this current environment.”
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