HTS Highlights: How Hotels are Making it Safe for Tourism, Meetings & Events

Illinois Hotel & Lodging Association President and CEO, Michael Jacobson began the conversation of what the tourism industry has been facing since the pandemic hit. Jacobson expressed that hotels were the first to be affected and are potentially going to be the last to recover. Yet, he has hopes of “opportunity and optimism” in our industry.  

Jacobson was joined by Senior Vice President of Hyatt, Steven Enselein and General Manager of Embassy Suites By Hilton Chicago – Downtown, Kathy Heneghan where they discussed hotel safety protocols, the adaption to change and the future for events including hybrid. Back in April hotel occupancy in Chicago was at 22% and has slowly started to recover with the most recent rate of 39% in July. The upcoming year will be a challenge to predict, but Hanaghen affirms a popular pick up in wedding receptions as they are 50% of current inquiries.

 In terms of hotel and event safety, Hilton has partnered with Lysol and Mayo Clinic to start CleanStay standards. A program that began this month dedicated to innovative solutions during COVID-19. It includes a cleaning protocol with a verified checklist, an “event-ready seal” put on every door, ensuring vendors are compliant with social distancing guidelines, flexible contracts, sanitation stations and a safer food & beverage experience for the guests and chefs by incorporating plexiglass.

 In addition, Hyatt Hotels have also incorporated a comprehensive plan. They have partnered with the Cleveland Clinic and the Global Biorisk Advisory Council (GBAC) to create a safe experience from arrival to departure. It specifically targets what guests can expect and what changes they may face. Hyatt has provided mobile check in, a digital key, limited capacity in elevators, social distancing in restaurants, clear entrances & exits, and having the flexibility of choosing a time for housekeeping.“Communication is key and we want guests to feel comfortable and safe,” Enseilein stated. 

Both hotels are focusing on proper training of staff for all protocols including issued masks, social distancing markers and signage around the lobby reminding guests and staff of the requirements. “Lead with Hospitality,” Hanaghen stated, to remind guests to not only wear a mask, but to also remind them of why it’s needed. 

If there is a silver lining to COVID-19, Enseilen said collaboration and working together has been seen more in this era than ever before, a hybrid component will only expand events and this an opportunity to remember why we meet face to face.


Written By Marla Chavez Garcia