Illinois hotel industry asking for federal bailout funding, warns hotels could close

Chicago's hotels had fewer guests in January than any other market in the country, and now they want state lawmakers to bail them out before it's too late.

The Illinois Hotel and Lodging Association is calling for $250 million, or a one-time grant of $1500 for every hotel room in the state.

Eighty-percent of the money would be used for employee payrolls and benefits. The plan is already making its way through the Illinois House and Senate.

The hotel industry says it saw 25-percent occupancy in January, but needs about 60-percent to turn a profit.

The CEO of Sable at Navy Pier says it will take years for the industry to recover.

"The last two years have been very difficult for hotels in Illinois. Most of them have been largely unprofitable, have been forced to make cuts and lay people off and do things none of us believed we'd see for this long of a period of time," said Bob Habeeb,


Habeeb would like to hire Chicagoans, but right now his hotel can only accommodate 100 employees — when they essentially could hire 400.

"If you think of it in the human sense, it's like if you haven't been working for two years, we've dug ourselves into a financial hole and just being normal won't be enough for us to make measurable improvement on the hole we've dug ourselves into," Habeeb said.

The state lost nearly $5.5 billion in room revenue in 2020 and 2021, and 40-percent of its hotel jobs.

Hotels estimate they won't recover to pre-pandemic levels until at least 2025, if they can hold on that long.