While business travel still lags, hotel industry leader expects full
recovery by 2024
Send a link to a friend
[August 09, 2022]
By Elyse Kelly | The Center Square contributor
(The Center Square) – A battered hotel
industry is enjoying summer travel, but business travel, the industry's
big money-maker, is still reticent to book.
Leisure travel came roaring back this year as pent-up demand sent a
surge of travelers onto the road and into various lodging across
Illinois. June saw hotel occupancy hit 72%, 2% higher than the national
occupancy rate, WIFR reported.
Illinois Hotel and Lodging Association president and CEO Michael
Jacobson says the industry is doing far better than they were a year
ago. While not at pre-pandemic levels yet, it gets closer every passing
“That’s primarily being driven by leisure travel right now,” he told
Illinois Radio Network.
Business travel still lags, however, according to Jacobson.
“You’re still not seeing companies put their employees back on the road
at the degree they did before the pandemic,” he said.
Jacobson says people are going to get back to traveling for business,
it's just going to take a little longer.
[to top of second column]
“We’re really working with businesses to make them realize you can’t
make a big sale over Zoom, or you can’t train a new group of employees
over Microsoft Teams,” he said. “Those technologies are here to stay,
don’t get me wrong, and they filled a big void during the pandemic, but
in many cases to make that client sale, you need to be there to shake
their hand, you need to be on a tradeshow floor to feel the product if
you’re going to purchase a product.”
Hotels' biggest hurdle now is staffing, as thousands of positions remain
open across the state, Jacobson noted. He wants people to rethink their
preconceptions about what a career in the hotel industry looks like.
“We have a job really for everybody that also provides a good living, a
great wage, good benefits and a lot of flexibility as well, so we’re
trying to get the message out there,” he said.
Other headwinds facing the industry include inflation, gas prices,
persistent staffing shortages and the looming potential for a full-blown
recession, says Jacobson.
“There are some headwinds still ahead of us that pose some challenges
and some potential risks, but we’re confident that, by 2024, we’ll fully
be back to normal,” he said.
Until then, he believes leisure travel will continue to be strong,
although maybe not at the frenzied levels directly following the
“Even though that pent up demand won't stay as high as it was right when
the pandemic started quieting down, people still realize now how
important traveling is to their own personal wellbeing and their
families’ wellbeing,” Jacobson said.