You don't have to be an expert in the hospitality business or spend hours poring over the balance sheets at Holiday Inn to know that 2020 was a very, very bad year for the hotel industry.

Not just a bad year, but going by the numbers, the worst year on record for our nation's innkeepers (not that it was great for innkeepers worldwide), according to a new report by the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA).

AHLA's study, "The State of the Hotel Industry 2021," takes an in-depth look at where the hotel side of the hospitality industry stands after the COVID-19 pandemic took a wrecking ball to their businesses from coast-to-coast. When you look back, you may recall that hotels were among the very first industries to feel the effects when the pandemic came crashing down on us.

How bad has it been for hotels? The AHLA report says that the impact of the pandemic on their businesses has been 9 times greater than the impact of 9/11.

Here in Illinois, it's the same story, if not worse. The Illinois Hotel & Lodging Association (IHLA) says that Chicago's hotel occupancy rate is in the teens, and they expect it to stay that way at least until late this year. Their hopes for a rebound rest with the COVID-19 vaccines and their distribution, but still say that "the industry does not expect pre-pandemic travel levels to return until 2024."

A couple of the key findings from the AHLA study include:

  • Hotels will add 200,000 direct hotel operations jobs in 2021 but will remain nearly 500,000 jobs below the industry’s pre-pandemic employment level of 2.3 million employees.
  • 56% of consumers say they expect to travel for leisure this year, roughly the same amount as in an average year.

You'd think that the number one key to getting people back into Chicago's hotels (along with the nation's hotels and motels) would be enhanced cleaning and hygiene standards, right? Not exactly. The AHLA study shows that all the cleaning and hygiene stuff, while very important to consumers, comes in at the #2 spot, way guessed it...the price of the room.


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