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Struggling hotel owners want convention capacity increased

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Wednesday, June 24, 2020  |  Article  |  By Kevin Bessler | The Center Square

Economy (34) , Governor (44) , Health (49)

(The Center Square) – Hotels in Illinois hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic are making an attempt to return to business and keep their doors open.

Hotels cut thousands of jobs across the state in May. Mark Jacobson, president and CEO of the Illinois Hotel and Lodging Association, said it has been a difficult stretch for hotels.

“Our occupancy rate is still, in some regions in the teens and in the best-case scenario in the 20s, which is never a good sign when you look at last year typically are in the 70 to 80 percent range this time of year,” he said.

The association is asking Gov. J.B. Pritzker to adjust his reopening plan. In Phase 4, gatherings of up to 50 people are allowed. The association said it can safely accommodate more than that.

“Our proposal is to instead base it on a percentage of occupancy of the ballroom or venue where the event is held because we have venues that are far larger that have high ceilings and great ventilation,” Jacobson said.

Conventions are a key revenue source for many hotels.

Without changes to the reopening plan, Jacobson said many hotels may go under.

The group has been in contact with the governor’s office and Jacobson said he is hoping something will be worked out.

“We’re confident that we will be able to work in partnership with the governor’s team and the Department of Public Health to find a safe way to gradually increase that number of people allowed in these events so that we can start putting people back to work responsibly,” Jacobson said.