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Marriott to furlough tens of thousands of workers as coronavirus batters hotel industry

Nathan Bomey, USA TODAY

Marriott International is poised to place tens of thousands of employees on furlough as the hotel giant reels from the coronavirus outbreak.

The travel industry is grappling with a tidal wave of cancellations as Americans heed public warnings to stay home to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

"As travel restrictions and social distancing efforts around the world become more widespread, we are experiencing significant drops in demand at properties globally with an uncertain duration," Marriott said in a statement. "We are adjusting global operations accordingly, which has meant either reduction in hours or a temporary leave for many of our associates at our properties."

Marriott, which had about 174,000 employees globally at the end of 2019, said the furloughs will affect all types of workers. They won't be paid their salaries during their time away from the company, but they will receive health care benefits.

The company hopes to bring the workers back onto its payroll as soon as practicable when the pandemic subsides.

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A sign marks the location of a Fairfield Inn & Suites Marriott hotel on November 30, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois.

"While the ultimate impact is difficult to predict at this time given the fluidity of the situation, we remain confident in our long-term prospects," Marriott said.

The move marks the first major announcement of layoffs or furloughs tied to the coronavirus crisis. Restaurant chains like McDonald's and Starbucks are limiting their restaurants to carry-out or drive-through, while most public event venues have shuttered.

Marriott is the largest hotel chain in the world with 1.38 million rooms worldwide. The company's brands include its namesake hotel chain, Westin, Sheraton, Courtyard by Marriott, Residence Inn by Marriott, The Ritz-Carlton and Renaissance Hotels.

Follow USA TODAY reporter Nathan Bomey on Twitter @NathanBomey.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Marriott furloughs tens of thousands of employees due to coronavirus