Suburban hospitality experts see growth for rest of year
Suburban hospitality experts see growth coming in 2017
The suburban hospitality industry has seen a boost in event and hotel bookings, more creative approaches to those events, and an increase in visitor spending.
That all leads to more dollars enriching businesses and more taxes going to local towns and counties, experts said.
"The industry is looking very good in the region," said Cort Carlson, executive director of the Aurora Area Convention & Visitors Bureau.
The local hospitality industry continues to rebuild after taking a hit during the recession. Even while an election year often creates a temporary pause in tourism, local experts believe that regardless of who wins in November, the hospitality industry will see a boost.
"This will be especially true with corporate meetings and events as many discretionary budgets have been held back, but will be re-engaged in 2017," said Ann Marie Arzt, president of EventScape Inc., an event planning firm in Barrington. "Charitable giving should also be on the rise, positively effecting nonprofit fundraising events."
In addition, when Chicago reported that it had record tourism this summer, especially with occupancy in hotels at 89.5 percent in June. It was the third time on record that occupancy in that month surpassed 89 percent. This increase also spilled over into the suburbs with extra hotel bookings, visitors and shoppers, experts said.
The Elgin area also believes has benefited from Chicago's boost in tourism. Local hotels said they had a good year and expect a good last quarter of the year, said Carol K. Gieske, president and CEO of the Elgin Area Chamber.
The Elgin economy in the second quarter remained healthy and has been expanding in some areas. Various economic indicators show that the economy continued to grow at a modest pace.
"Developers and businesses are cautiously optimistic about their prospects for the remainder of the year," Gieske said.
In the Aurora area, travelers have boosted revenues and hotel occupancy remains strong, Carlson said.
The Aurora Area Convention & Visitors Bureau also plans to put a new focus on group sales, with a concentration in sports marketing. The bureau launched last spring the Aurora Area Sports Alliance to elevate the regional sports marketing efforts. The alliance is pursuing several bids for major regional and national events that could drive the sale for thousands of hotel room night to the Aurora area and add significantly to the economic impact of the region.
"As the bureau continues to reinvent itself, the outlook for travel and tourism to the region is bright,"Carlson said.
The same is true at Meet Chicago Northwest, the tourism bureau based in Schaumburg. Leaders at the bureau reported a number of events, including AdeptiCon, a miniature war gaming event, and Stitches Knitting Expo at the Schaumburg Convention Center. It also saw The Chicago Toy Soldiers Show, an expo of vintage toy soldiers, at the Hyatt Regency Woodfield.
In addition, the new Best Western O'Hare North in Elk Grove Village opened earlier this year after a renovation. It was previously called Quality Inn. And the Westin Chicago Northwest in Itasca also underwent a renovation this year, reported Meet Chicago Northwest.
"It was great to see a lot of hotel renovation from franchisers and national brands investing in the market," said Dave Parulo, president of Schaumburg-based Meet Chicago Northwest. "Developers see that things are moving ahead after they stalled in 2008, and now they have some confidence in the region."
And Rosemont, which has 15 hotels, just opened the newly refurbished eight-story, 200-room Hyatt Place Hotel this month at 6810 N. Mannheim Road. The hotel complex was the former Wyndham O'Hare, which closed in January 2010.
Across the street in Des Plaines, construction on a five-story, 128-room Holiday Inn Express & Suites is scheduled to begin this fall at Mannheim and Higgins roads.
Rosemont is also planning a five-story, 163-room boutique hotel at The Pearl, Rosemont's planned dining and shopping complex south of Balmoral Avenue and west of the Tri-State Tollway. It would be the closest hotel to O'Hare, outside the airport property.
The Hilton/Chicago Oak Brook Hills Resort & Conference Center also experienced a renovation and has been having a good year, said Mary Ann Kenmotsu, director of catering and conference services.
It so far has spent about $7 million on renovation on various parts of the hotel. Guest rooms also will be renovated this winter. That renovation is expected to lure more customers to book their events or vacation stays.
"The stunning ballroom now aligns with the hotel's sleek, modern redesign," Kenmotsu said. "It features sophisticated architectural details such as textured gold wall coverings and custom millwork that make a statement. The grandeur of our grand ballroom coupled with our impeccable service vows to create memorable weddings and events for our guests."
In regards to corporate business, companies are holding large meetings, conventions and seminars, she said. "Services and amenities that are especially important to them are technology such as fast Wi-Fi, team building and healthy food options."
For weddings and social events, the focus has shifted from the bride and groom to the guest experience. It is also more convenient for the guests to stay at the same hotel for the rehearsal dinner, ceremony, reception and post-wedding brunch. Brides and grooms have been using the hotel's spacious outdoor patio, tent and ballroom.
The rest of the year is similar to last year with fundraising galas and holiday parties. While Kenmotsu said 2015 showed a 25 percent growth over 2014 and 2016 is expected to have a 10 percent growth over 2015.
Lake County is also seeing growth. Visit Lake County said that visitor spending in 2015 was nearly $1.3 billion, up nearly 1 percent. Even employment increased 2 percent. Tourism related jobs also have jumped from 10,190 to 10,530.
Also the local tax receipts have risen to $28 million, up 3.9 percent, from $25.78 million in 2014, the group said.
"We are pleased to see sustained growth in visitor spending in Lake County," said Visit Lake County President Maureen Riedy. "Leisure and business travel are both vitally important to Lake County and help infuse new dollars into our local economy."
Leaders are optimistic about the future.
"Next year looks amazing," Kenmotsu said. "We have more weddings contracted than we did the same time this year. I predict the wedding trends for 2017 will be elegant, memorable events with personal, intimate touches, such as a cookie bar or ice cream sundae bar in lieu of a wedding cake, signature cocktails, 'In Memory of' tables, and donations to favorite charity requests instead of favors," she said.
TakeAways• The suburban hospitality industry has seen a boost in event and hotel bookings, more creative approaches to those events, and an increase in visitor spending.
• Chicago reported that it had record tourism this summer and the increase spilled over into the suburbs with extra hotel bookings, visitors and shoppers, experts said.
• "It was great to see a lot of hotel renovation from franchisers and national brands investing in the market," said Dave Parulo, president of Schaumburg-based Meet Chicago Northwest.
• Rosemont is also planning a five-story, 163-room boutique hotel at The Pearl, Rosemont's planned dining and shopping complex south of Balmoral Avenue and west of the Tri-State Tollway. It would be the closest hotel to O'Hare, outside the airport property.
• "We are pleased to see sustained growth in visitor spending in Lake County," said Visit Lake County President Maureen Riedy. "Leisure and business travel are both vitally important to Lake County and help infuse new dollars into our local economy."
• Suburban hospitality experts see growth in the local industry for rest of year.