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Coronavirus

Will County hotels try to 'weather the storm'

Yellow police tape blocks the entrance into Harrah's Casino in Joliet, which along with the Harrah's Hotel has temporarily closed. Hollywood Casino in Joliet also has closed. Occupancy rates are reported as low as 5% at some local hotels as the industry struggles through a stay-at-home marketplace.
Yellow police tape blocks the entrance into Harrah's Casino in Joliet, which along with the Harrah's Hotel has temporarily closed. Hollywood Casino in Joliet also has closed. Occupancy rates are reported as low as 5% at some local hotels as the industry struggles through a stay-at-home marketplace.

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Occupancy rates are reported as low as 5% at some local hotels as the industry struggles through a stay-at-home marketplace.

About the only people staying checking into rooms are truckers working long hours, travelers involved in coronavirus-related services, and homeless people moved out of shelters because of social distancing standards.

“Even the truckers are slowing down,” said one Joliet hotel owner who did not want his name used out of concern about negative publicity for his hotel.

Occupancy rates at his hotel are down to between 10% and 15%.

Countywide, occupancy rates may be averaging 20%, said Dan Scott, president of Will County Lodging Association. But Scott said he heard of one hotel where the occupancy rate had dropped to 5%.

The collapse in business comes at a time when hotels typically begin to generate income after coming off their worst time of the year, Scott said.

“We’re coming off a very slow period,” he said. “We’re going into a busy season, and that busy season may be gone.”

Despite carrying national brand names like Holiday Inn, Best Western and Comfort Inn, nearly all the hotels in Will County are owned by individuals or small companies with a few hotels, Scott said.

“It’s not like we’re a big corporation,” said Scott, who also is general manager for Posh Hospitality, which has three hotels in Joliet. “We’ve got the same challenges everybody else does.”

Occupancy rates now should be ranging between 60% and 80% with the weather warming up, events being staged and more travelers on the roads.

With the grim conditions created by the coronavirus, hotels, even with the reduced numbers of guests they have, are emphasizing social distancing in the lobby and serving breakfast in grab-and-go containers.

“A lot of our hotels have done additional cleaning,” Scott said.

The Will County Lodging Association counts 22 members, about half of all hotels in Will County. Two have closed temporarily. The hotels that serve Harrah’s Casino and Hollywood Casino closed when the casinos did. Other hotels have stayed open, but many needed to take steps to reduce costs.

Hotels have cut pay, reduced hours and furloughed workers to try to “weather the storm,” he said.

Members are stepping up to serve the cause of fighting coronavirus, discounting rooms for shelter residents who need to be moved. Scott said about 50 such rooms were occupied. Hotels also donated sheets, shampoo and towels to the shelters.

“Our goal as hoteliers,” he said, “is to keep people safe and to keep our employees working.”

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