Hotel industry unveils new procedures to safely increase occupancy limits for meeting rooms, ballrooms

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The Illinois Hotel & Lodging Association (IHLA) unveiled a plan to safely increase the number of people allowed to gather in hotel meeting rooms, ballrooms and public spaces to 50 percent of available capacity, a move that would help keep the state’s tourism and event industries afloat after being decimated by the coronavirus pandemic.

The proposal would allow for a more substantial capacity increase than what is available under Gov. JB Pritzker’s current Restore Illinois plan, which would only permit 50 people to gather when the state enters Phase 4 as soon as June 26th.

This limit can responsibly be increased, especially given the vast size of many banquet rooms and meeting spaces and the ability to implement proper distancing controls to limit risk. In addition, a strict 50-person limit is contrary to guidelines being discussed for other industries, which are also based on capacity levels.

Michael Jacobson, president and CEO, of IHLA is available today to provide the media with a walk-through of how the hotel industry’s plan would operate in the Juliet Ballroom at the London House Hotel, located at 85 E. Wacker Drive in Chicago.

“I am proud of the investment hoteliers have made to ensure the safety and comfort of guests and staff throughout this public health crisis. The hotel and tourism industry are a critical component of the economy for Chicago and the state of Illinois, and our plan provides an important bridge to the future. If a standard of safety can be implemented for other industries, it can be implemented to an even greater level at private events held within our venues,” said Jacobson.

The plan, which is supported by key Democratic lawmakers, builds on protocols hotels across Illinois have already adopted to protect workers and guests. Meetings and events are controlled gatherings, which allows for a greater ability to mitigate risk. This includes requiring attendees to register in advance, ensuring events are held in private spaces and using technology to provide for contactless check-in and reduce queuing.

The state’s tourism and event industries traditionally generate billions of dollars a year in tax revenue for state and local governments, directly supporting hundreds of thousands of jobs. But the pandemic has left the industry reeling, resulting in single-digit occupancy rates and employee furloughs and lay-offs.

“Travel and tourism are incredibly important to Illinois’ economy and is of critical importance to my district. I applaud the steps the hotel industry has taken to create safety procedures that would allow guests to return, get employees back to work and produce needed tax revenue to support important programs that benefits everyone in Illinois,” said Rep. Fred Crespo, D-Hoffman Estates, House Assistant Majority Leader.

The plan would also help Chicago maintain its status as a major tourism and convention destination.

“The hotels in my district not only contribute to Chicago’s status as a World-class city, but they are vital to our economy, employing thousands of people from neighborhoods across the city. This plan would safely put people back to work and help kickstart our economy,” said Rep. Kam Buckner, D-Chicago.

  • IHLA’s plan includes:
  • Practicing social distancing throughout the event, including implementing contactless check-in and placing appropriate floor markings in any area where waiting may occur.
  • Placing hand sanitizer throughout meeting spaces.
  • Providing employees with proper PPE and ensuring event attendees wear face coverings.
  • Temperature checks for employees and guests before entering meeting rooms, ballrooms, and public gathering spaces.
  • Limiting capacity at each table to provide additional spacing between guests and spacing tables no less than 6-feet apart.
  • Limiting food service including the suspension of self-service buffets and communal beverages like water pitchers.
  • Routinely sanitizing frequently touched surfaces such as elevator button panels.
  • Ensuring practices are in place for contact tracing for employees, third-party vendors, and attendees.