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Hotels face devastating impacts from coronavirus

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ROCKFORD (WREX) — The hospitality and tourism industry across the state has been hit hard by the COVID-19 outbreak.

Managers at local hotels have put in policies to reduce the spread of the virus, but still, fewer people are checking in. 

Where State Street meets I-90, you'll find no shortage of hotels, but you will find a shortage of guests. 

"We have dropped occupancy from about 60 to 70 percent down to 20 to 30 [percent]," Janet Eyster, the manager of the Fairfield Inn, says.  

"The hotel industry is certainly dramatically, negatively affected," John Groh, the President of the Rockford Area Convention and Visitor's Bureau, adds.

And some even took it a step further.

"The damage is worse than the impacts of 9/11 and the 2008 recession combined," Michael Jacobson, the CEO of the Illinois Hotel and Lodging Association, said in the press conference on Wednesday.  

The COVID-19 outbreak has forced hotel managers, like Eyster, to make tough decisions. 

"I had to layoff almost half of my staff and probably [have] more cuts to come,"  Eyster explains.

The 106-room hotel was only 28 percent filled Wednesday afternoon. That's despite Eyster and her staff taking precautions for the guests they do have. 

"We have currently closed down our pool, our fitness center, and our hot breakfast is shut down," Eyster says.

"Certainly these are hard days, days that we have not seen before," Groh says about the situation.

While Eyster isn’t sure how long it will take before her numbers rebound, Groh says it took almost two years before hotels recovered from September 11th and the 2008 recession, causing lasting economic impacts that ripple through the community. 

"If hotels close [that] would not be surprising to me," Groh says. "I’d say it’s more when."

It's an uncertain future for managers who are taking it one day at a time. 

The RACVB is helping hotels by providing information on where they can apply for state and federal grants. 

Richard Bodee

Richard Bodee is a reporter at WREX. He joined the 13 WREX team in June 2019 after graduating from DePaul University with a Master’s degree in broadcast journalism.

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