Coronavirus

Empty beds in DeKalb, Genoa, Crystal Lake lodging facilities means lost revenue amid COVID-19

Empty beds in DeKalb, Genoa, Crystal Lake means lost revenue for owners and cities

The Parkside Bed and Breakfast in DeKalb March 25, 2020.
The Parkside Bed and Breakfast in DeKalb March 25, 2020.

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With occupancy dropping at hotels everywhere, lodging establishments are doing what they can to help out during the coronavirus pandemic.

For the Holiday Inn in Crystal Lake, that means discounted rates on rooms for people who need them. For the one-room Parkside Bed and Breakfast in DeKalb, it means putting up an out-of-town nurse for 30 days.

Earl Chambers, the Holiday Inn Crystal Lake general manager, said they’re offering rooms at discounted rates to people who feel they need a safe living environment, particularly seniors.

“We’re starting to call the county’s chamber members and we’re giving very low rates to people that need a room,” Flowers said. “Family members who don’t want to have older people home sick. We’re giving really cheap rates for seniors or people that need to be away.”

Bob Snow, owner of Parkside Bed and Breakfast, has also felt the pinch with five cancellations in March and April. His establishment is a one-room cottage, and he’s found a way for business during this time.

“We had the opportunity to rent to a visiting nurse for 30 days,” Snow said. “It’s quite common for hospitals and nursing homes to bring in people so we gave them a reduced rate obviously. So there’s some income from that.”

Flowers said he didn’t want to get into specific numbers – he called occupancy rates good earlier and low now. And it’s similar everywhere. Hotels in DeKalb took an extra hit earlier this month.

When the IESA canceled its state championship wrestling tournament, slated for March 13 to 14 at the NIU Convocation Center, the county lost out on an expected $400,000 in total revenue, said Brad Hoey of the DeKalb County Visitor Bureau.

Courtney Strohocker with the DCVB said they’ve started programs such as DeKalb County UNITES to help local businesses, including hotels.

“It’s scary to think about the revenue numbers,” Strohocker said. “But we’re working on things to try and help the situation.”

Jaki Berggen, executive director of Visit McHenry County, said the hotels are planning for as much as a 75% drop in travel revenue over March and April.

She cited an Oxford Economics study that projected a 31% drop in travel revenue this year. The study said lodging will lose $76.4 billion in revenue and 670,000 jobs.

Even with hotel rooms emptier than normal, Berggen said hotels in McHenry County are staying open.

“We know they’re allowed to be open and many are,” Berggen said. “We haven’t heard of any that are planning to close. I’ve been in touch with hotel salespeople and they are in the office working.”

Smaller lodging options such as bed and breakfasts have also felt the effects of the pandemic. Mary Keys, who runs the Genoa Guest House, said her three-room establishment felt the pinch when the IESA tournament was canceled.

“I had a full house for two nights, and we only have three rooms, but when you lose six bookings that’s pretty substantial,” Key said. “At that point, I knew this was going to have an effect for several months. We also do private parties and events, and those have been postponed to be re-booked at an undetermined time. So basically we have nothing going on. But that’s fine, ’cause what else are you going to do?”

Keys said that not having employees to worry about during this time – she runs the Guest House with her husband – is definitely a good thing.

“I’m happy I’m not concerned with someone else’s livelihood,” Keys said. “There’s much less pressure than those with 100 beds and a large staff. They have much more pressure. Plus in those they have corporate who call the shots.”

Keys is remaining optimistic for when the pandemic passes.

“I’m certain that once parents have been sequestered with their kids, they are going to want to go away alone together,” Keys said. “They’re also not going to be in a position to travel far, and the Genoa Guest House will be the perfect place for a quiet moment with your spouse away from all those other challenges.”

For local volunteer opportunities in McHenry County, visit the Volunteer Center McHenry County.

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