South Florida hotels are emptier and in trouble. Blame COVID-19. (includes video story)

COVID-19 has been more than a little difficult for Miami-Dade hotels. For most, it meant temporarily closing, running at reduced capacity, less staff and fewer bookings. 

Now, they are adapting to pandemic guidelines. 

Tourism, one of Miami’s top industries, has seen a significant drop, at least partly because of travel restrictions.

At Hyde Resort and Residences, a high-end hotel on Hollywood’s broadwalk, the staff has seen a steep decline in international guests. Most of their bookings used to be people traveling from Chile and Argentina. “We have about 45% occupancy on the weekends, and during the weekdays it’s about 15%,” said Anahi Aguirre, owner relations manager at Hyde. “Most of the crowd that has been coming in right now is very local.”

Staff has also added hand-sanitizing stations and six-foot social distancing markings.

“We are also doing everyday cleaning for guests that stay here,” Aguirre said. 

Hyde’s shared facilities, such as its pool, gym, and spa, have reopened. Guests are required to wear facemasks, and the facilities are being sanitized every two hours, she said.

Aloft Miami, a hotel in Doral, has put in place similar policies.

“The pandemic was a big problem for our industry,” Juan Salas, revenue manager at Aloft, said. “We were at less than 10% capacity and were forced to close. Once opened, the [county] had us close our shared facilities and pool. This resulted in a big deal breaker for the tourists that come to the hotel.” 

Staff restructured Aloft. The food at the breakfast buffet was individually packaged, and increased sanitation measures were taken, said Salas.

Aloft’s sister hotel, Element Doral, which offers extended stays, reaped the benefits of COVID-19. They remained open at the start of the pandemic, but operations and occupancy changed.

“Our expectation of occupancy has definitely changed,” said Nilca Galicia, director of sales at Element Hotel. “We passed from being a hotel at 100% occupancy to being at 10% occupancy. Our expectation is that it’s going to get back to around 50%.”

Travel restrictions brought in a fairly local crowd for Element. Most come from Georgia, she said.

Though the number of guests arriving from outside of the United States is limited, a handful still arrive on business trips.

David Delgado, a guest at Element, flew in from Mexico and booked a two-week stay while getting his aviation license.

“It’s been an interesting experience,” he said. “It’s the first hotel I’ve stayed at since the pandemic started. There haven’t been too many people staying at the same time, so that’s good.”

Both hotels are owned by TM Hospitality LLC. They share a restaurant and bar that used to employ about 100 staff members. Now, only 60% of the staff is working. Full-service housekeeping was reduced to once-a-week cleaning.

For hotels like Aloft, Element, and Hyde, unprecedented times like these come with a lot of uncertain long-term effects. “Unfortunately, due to COVID-19,” is now a common phrase uttered throughout these types of establishments. 

“The new normal is to just be happy with whatever we get and try to target any business we get in the area,” Galicia said.


Joanna Ravachi Mughinstein, originally from Venezuela, currently major in broadcast Journalism with a Pre Law Certificate. She aspires to be a future reporter.

Nicole Forero, originally from Cali, Colombia, currently majors in journalism with a minor in Social Media & E-Marketing Analytics. She’s interested in photojournalism and aspires to become a feature writer.

Nicolle Capdevielle was born in Caracas, Venezuela and is pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Digital Communication and Media with a minor in Social Media and E-Marketing Analytics. She loves designing and creating written and digital content -- and is now mastering storytelling as well.