Illinois hotels continue to struggle hiring and retaining workers

(The Center Square) –  As the hotel industry continues to rebound from the crippling COVID-19 pandemic, worker shortages remain a challenge.

The hotel industry is making a push to hire more workers in Illinois and nationwide. The Illinois General Assembly tried to address the issue by passing a hotel workforce development program in the state budget. Lawmakers also passed a bill that ties Illinois’ travel per diem for state employees to the federal rate in an effort to boost hotels.

American Hotel and Lodging Association President and CEO Chip Rogers said hotel employment is down 250,000 jobs since February 2020.

“A massive shortage,” Rogers told The Center Square. “We poll our members on a quarterly basis and the most recent information we got back from our membership shows that 82% of hotels have openings right now and about a third have so many openings that it’s impairing their ability to fully service the demand that they have.”

To help hotels fill open jobs and raise awareness of the hotel industry’s career pathways, the AHLA Foundation’s “A Place to Stay” advertising campaign is now active in 20 cities, including Chicago.

Rogers said Illinois lawmakers did well in approving legislation to protect hotel workers, which allows hotels to refuse service or remove customers who engage in abusive behavior toward hotel employees.

“We’ve been pushing legislation across the country called the ‘Be Nice Bill,’” Rogers said. “Sometimes guests can get out of hand and hotel employees should not have to put up with that.”

Illinois was seventh in the nation last year in hotel wages, salaries and compensation, at over $2.6 billion.

Rogers notes since the pandemic, average hotel wages have increased faster than average wages throughout the general economy.

“To continue supporting millions of good-paying jobs and generating billions in tax revenue in communities across the nation, hotels need to hire more people,” said Rogers.

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