As Many As 120,000 Hotel Industry Layoffs Expected In Illinois AloneBy Tara Molina

CHICAGO (CBS) — With thousands laid off already, the impact of COVID-19 on the hotel industry has been deemed worse than the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks and the 2008-2009 Great Recession – combined.

As CBS 2’s Tara Molina reported, the Peninsula Chicago, 108 E. Superior St., and the Park Hyatt, 800 N. Michigan Ave., were the first to close their doors along the Magnificent Mile.

Many have followed.

But a state group we talked to is already making moves to help them – and all local here – when they can open back up again.

Typically, taxis are lined up, bellhops are in place, and customers are teeming in front of the Hilton Chicago, 720 S. Michigan Ave. But no such sights were to be seen Wednesday night.

The Hilton has joined the list of Chicago hotels shutting their doors this week.

The lack of sights and sounds outside some of the city’s most recognizable landmarks is eerie. But many have chosen to close for the time being, with some occupancy rates in the single digits.

“One hotel downtown had one person check in, and another hotel was excited that they had seven guests check in,” said Michael Jacobson, President of the Illinois Hotel and Lodging Association.

We’re told there are hotels that won’t make it.

“It’s so unclear what the long-term impact is, but our industry will look very different when we come out of this than when we entered in,” Jacobson said.

Jacobson told us COVID-19’s hit to the industry is unlike anything they’ve seen before. And it comes after a tough 2019 in Chicago.

“We had several conventions that just happened to not be here, rotating through different markets, so everyone was really excited for 2020,” he said.

Last month, the hotels had crowds for the NBA All-Star Game. But now, there are layoffs in the thousands and more by the day.

“We are expecting as many as 120,000 layoffs across the hotel industry, just in the state of Illinois,” Jacobson said.

But he said they’re looking past today’s dark lobbies and empty rooms, working with Chicago’s tourism groups to help hotels when their doors open again.

“Making sure visitors come back quickly is going to be the fastest and easiest way to put people back to work,” Jacobson said.

The message they want to send is, “Rest assured, we’ll see you soon.”

And with a 17.5% percent city tax on every hotel room in Chicago, it’s a hit to the city’s bottom line too.

Tara Molina