SPRINGFIELD, IL – As many businesses reopen, the hotel industry continues to work to recover from the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Illinois Senate’s new Tourism and Hospitality Committee heard concerns from industry leaders. These executives said their top priority has always been the health and safety of employees and customers.

The restaurants were already reopened in phase 4 with limited indoor capacity. However, Illinois Restaurant Association President Sam Toia said that was not enough.

“We don’t ask for 100% capacity, we didn’t ask for that,” said Toia. “We’re just asking for social distancing, masks, a clean and sanitary place, and PPE, but we need the metrics.”

Toia suggests the state could start quick COVID tests on the door for major events in the future. He said if the state only allows gatherings of 50 people, major events like concerts couldn’t return to Illinois.

“When these events leave and they will, they will go to other cities and they will never come back,” Toia said. “My colleagues in the hotel and convention community can confirm the massive, massive ripple effect this is having on business across the region.”

“Restart” of the hospitality industry

Meanwhile, Michael Jacobson, president of the Illinois Hotel and Lodging Association, said people don’t know that Illinois entrepreneurs are struggling the hardest. He explained that well-known hotels like Hilton or Marriott are not always run by corporate millionaires on a local level.

“In fact, they are all privately owned and operated as franchises, most of which are owned by residents of Illinois.” said Jacobson.

Jacobson emphasized that these Illinois residents continue to suffer. He said vaccinating hotel workers opens up the possibility of allowing large events.

The Tourism and Hospitality Committee did not exist a year ago today, it came into being as a result of the pandemic. Committee chair Sara Feigenholtz, after hearing industry leaders, said it was clear that something had to be done.

“We have to restart this industry and get these people back to work to get the city of Chicago and the state of Illinois rolling again,” Feigenholtz said.

Other hotel business representatives stressed that they cannot lose another summer to the pandemic. These companies may not fully recover until 2024.