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Chicago tourism rebounds as hotels seek workers to fill thousands of jobs

CHICAGO (WLS) — The tourism industry is getting a bit back to normal. More people are back vacationing in Chicago, which is good news.

Londonhouse, one of the most scenic rooftop restaurants in the city, was full for lunch on a Wednesday.

“I love the city so far,” tourist Nick Peters said. “We’ve only been here a day, but it’s awesome.”

Business is pretty good there, but experts say the industry as a whole is still struggling.

“We’re picking up and getting busier and the workforce is getting smaller,” said Juan Leyva, general manager at Londonhouse Hotel.

Executives say the Chicago hotel industry has several thousand of job openings right now. But finding and retaining employees is just one of the challenges hotels are facing.

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The industry is trying to recover from the financial devastation of the pandemic. Hotels in the state lost about 5.4 billion in 2020 and 2021. And state and local municipalities lost about a billion dollars in tax revenue.

“Hotel owners are still in a world of hurt, including two foreclosures of major hotels in the last week,” said Michael Jacobson, CEO of the Illinois Hotel and Lodging Association. “And I don’t think they are the last of them. Because you can’t make up for the damage with one strong summer.”

Experts say that so far this summer tourism is doing very well. Lots of people are traveling for fun. Business travel, a staple of the industry, is coming back – but not as quickly.

“The more people are back in the office, the more people are traveling,” said Jack Lavin, Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce. “And we hear from our banks and law firms, too, they need to get back out traveling. They don’t want to lose any customers and clients, and that’s all good for the travel industry,”

“As we celebrate Chicago’s comeback, ensuring the safety of visitors and residents is a critical priority,” said Glenn Eden, Choose Chicago.

Hotel industry leaders say they are concerned about increased crime downtown and they’re working with the city to find answers before it seriously impacts their business.

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