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Chicago’s tourism recovery from the pandemic is lagging, say Hyatt and American Airlines | State and Regional

CHICAGO – Chicago is “lagging” other cities in its recovery from the pandemic, the CEOs of a major airline and hotel chain said Wednesday.

One measure in which it’s lagging is how much airlines are flying. Capacity remains lower in Chicago than average, said Robert Isom, CEO of American Airlines, which has a major hub at O’Hare International Airport.

Chicago is also behind in the return of white-collar workers to offices, much like cities with large tech industries such as Seattle and San Francisco, said Mark Hoplamazian, CEO of Chicago-based Hyatt Hotels.

Hoplamazian said the recovery of tourism and travel in Chicago might be particularly hurt by slower international travel and the city’s historic dependence on large conventions, which have returned but aren’t yet back in full swing.

“We’ve seen other cities come back more strongly,” he said. A short time later, in comments directed at the new leader of Choose Chicago, the city’s official tourism arm, he said: “You’ve got your work cut out for you.”

Hoplamazian and Isom made the comments at a downtown lunch hosted by the Executives’ Club of Chicago. The airline and hospitality industries, battered by the pandemic, have faced the task of ramping up staff and operations after pandemic cuts, but the two CEOs said demand for travel is returning.

Tourists and leisure travelers have been driving demand, but Hoplamazian said Hyatt is seeing more corporations and associations booking hotels for gatherings. He expects group travel will reach pre-pandemic levels by the end of the year.

Also growing is blended work and leisure trips. Travelers are extending work trips into long weekends, Hoplamazian said.

“’Bleisure’ is real,” Isom said, referring to a blend of business and leisure.

Still, both industries have faced hiring challenges. For airlines, a pilot shortage that was looming before the pandemic was exacerbated by retirements and limited hiring and training of new pilots during the pandemic, Isom said. About 150 American Airlines planes are grounded because the carrier doesn’t have the pilots to fly them.

Corporate tech and digital workers have also been in short supply, Hoplamazian said. He pinned it on increasing competition as more companies relied on digital tools during the pandemic, and as tech companies such as Amazon and Salesforce grew.

Another hurdle for American this summer will be orders of new Boeing planes that haven’t yet been delivered. American would add several international destinations if it had the planes, Isom said.

Despite the pandemic challenges, Isom said American is heavily invested in Chicago and O’Hare. A massive overhaul is underway at O’Hare partially funded by airline fees.

“We have to have a supply of passengers who will actually work that cost out over time,” Isom said.

Get your grill ready for summer barbecues: A guide to cleaning it

For the grill of it

Adobe Stock

Nothing tastes quite as good as vegetables and meat cooked over an open-propane flame or the red-hot briquettes of a barbecue grill.

But achieving the perfect sear on your food requires more than just paying attention to the heat source and temperature. Having a clean grill reduces annoying flare-ups, allowing you to have more success when grilling.

Grills with bits of leftover food stuck to the grates or with grease and food bits in the lower section of the grill can reduce the longevity of the grill and can affect the taste of the food you are grilling. Here’s a guide to cleaning your grill to get it ready for summer:

Cleaning your grill’s grates‌


Any cleaning process with a barbecue grill should start by cleaning the grates (the surface where the food sits while cooking).

Just be sure to allow the grill and grates to cool down for an hour or more before starting the cleaning process, because you may need to touch the parts of the grill.

Grates collect food particles and grease over time. As you cook, leaving the particles in place, they will burn to a black residue, some of which will remain stuck to the grates and some of which will stick to the food that you cook in the future.

Fortunately, cleaning the grates is not as difficult as it sounds.

Scraping and brushing the grates‌

Use a tool to scrape food particles off the grates on the grill to start the cleaning process.

If you haven’t cleaned the grates for a while, a scraper tool is the best option. The scraper should have notches in it to match the size and shape of your grates. Metal scraper tools usually work best, although some people prefer wood scraper tools.

After scraping the majority of the grime off the grates, then use a brush for a finer cleaning process. There are three primary designs in grill-cleaning brushes:

  • Metal bristles: A metal bristle grill brush will give you the most thorough cleaning, as the metal bristles are stiff and durable. However, metal bristles may pop loose from the brush and stick to the grates, meaning they could end up on food, creating a serious health hazard if someone ingests a bristle.
  • Nylon Bristles: A nylon bristle grill brush will be safer to use on the grill, especially one with light-colored bristles that are easy to see if they stick to the grates. However, nylon bristles don’t quite remove food as effectively as metal bristles.
  • Bristle free: Some people prefer a bristle-free grill brush to eliminate the possibility of loose bristles ending up in food. These work more like scraper tools, but they are a little easier to use for general cleaning over a larger space than the scraper covers.

Add gentle dish soap and warm water to the grates before using the brushes. After removing the particles of food with the brushes, you may want to use a paper towel soaked in warm water and dish soap to finish wiping down the grates.

Cleaning grill’s grates after each use‌

To simplify the process of thoroughly cleaning the grates a few times per year, you will want to quickly clean the grates after each use. You can perform this cleaning step while the grates on the grill are still warm.

Apply a degreaser spray to the grates first. Then use a grill-cleaning brick, scrubbing back and forth across the grates to remove the loose food particles stuck to the grates.

After cleaning, apply warm water to the grates, and scrub again with the clean side of the brick.

Cleaning the interior‌


You’ll want to clean out the interior section of the grill, as well, removing bits of food and grease that fall into the bowl of the grill to prevent flare-ups.

Cleaning a gas grill interior‌

The burners inside the gas grill eventually may become covered in grime, so you should run a brush over them to pop grime out of the holes where the flame appears.

If the burners have a flame shield over them to distribute heat, you should be able to pull the shields out and wash them separately with dish soap.

Scrape the interior of the grill to loosen and remove any buildup of grime and food particles.

Cleaning a charcoal grill interior‌

Clean the ash and remaining briquettes out of the bowl of the charcoal grill after every one to three uses. If you can tip the grill to pour out the ash, this is the best method.

Scrape the interior of the grill bowl to loosen and clean out any remaining residue. You can use mild dish soap with warm water or a degreasing spray to finish cleaning the interior of the grill.

Cleaning the exterior‌

The exterior of the grill will not become as grimy and soiled as the interior of the grill, but you will want to give it a quick cleaning a few times a year. Just use a bit of degreaser spray or dish soap and a sponge to wipe down the exterior of the grill.

Heat up the grill after cleaning‌

After giving the grill a thorough cleaning, you will want to run the heat on a gas grill for at least 10 minutes to burn off any residue that remains from the cleaning process.

For a charcoal grill, you will want to allow the lit briquettes to thoroughly heat the interior of the grill before adding the food the next time you use it. In other words, wait a few minutes longer than normal after the briquettes heat up before placing food on the grates.

Preventive cleaning tips

To keep your grill clean year-round, which will lengthen its lifespan, try these suggestions:

  • Store the grill inside a garage or shed to keep it out of the elements, especially in the winter.
  • Use a water-resistant grill cover that protects the entire unit, draping nearly all the way to the ground.
  • Use a grill mat over the top of the grates on the grill, especially when cooking messy food, which keeps the grates from accumulating grease and bits of food.

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