Tourism, Hotel Industry Hit Hard By Coronavirus

Jennifer Keiper
March 12, 2020 - 9:37 am
Hotel Lobby

CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- The coronavirus is taking a hit on the tourism industry - especially hotels here in the Chicago area. 

It is too early to tell what the long term impact might be, but but Michael Jacobson, President and CEO of the Illinois Hotel and Lodging Association, said it has been "a rough couple weeks" for hotels across the state.

"In the last two weeks, we've lost several major trade shows, here, in the City of Chicago and we're seeing definitely business and leisure travel both take a hit across the state," he said.

He calls the cancellations and postponements of St. Patrick's Day parades a “huge hit” for Chicago hotels.

When it comes to layoffs, Jacobson said reality is "when we don't have hotel rooms filled, naturally we are going to have to scale back our staffing and that is why we are really hopeful that this is a real short-term issue and that our partners in public health get this under control quickly and that we are able to look back on this sooner, rather than later."

Asked in the industry might offer deals to recoup some businesses or just eat the cost, Jacobson tells WBBM Newsradio it's a combination of both but, "what we are really focused on is how we come out of this and how we bounce back when this behind us. Hopefully it's a matter of only a few days, and not weeks or months, but when that time comes, our partners at Choose Chicago and the individual hotels are really going to double-down on marketing the city."

Jacobson said the hotel industry here already has strict cleaning guidelines, but with coronavirus, they have been consulting with health and sanitation experts to bolster cleaning procedures. Hotels are also retraining staff and providing access to hand sanitizer.

But Jacobson also said this goes beyond hotels.

"The suppliers, the restaurants, the bars - when people come visit Chicago they're not just holed up in their hotel rooms - they get out and explore the entire city," he said.