CHICAGO, Ill., April 27, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — Chicago hotels suffered significant setbacks during the pandemic, yet many hotels have managed to survive if not thrive thanks to resilient leadership practices, according to research from Kendall College at National Louis University in collaboration with the Illinois Hotel & Lodging Association. The research offers a snapshot of best hotel management practices in response to COVID-19 and provides insight into the industry’s operational challenges, responses to the crisis, future trends and potential challenges in recovery.

“There’s a lot of buzz around the idea of ‘resilience’ and we wanted to dig deeper to understand the specific management practices that contributed to hotel survival during the pandemic.” said Deborah Popely, DBA, lead investigator and chair of Hospitality Management at Kendall College. “Recognizing that other “Black Swan” events and disruptions are likely to occur in the future, we wanted to share lessons learned to help enhance hotel industry resilience for the future.”

Case study research was conducted between October 2020 and January 2021, consisting of in-depth surveys with 16 Chicago area hotels and one-on-one interviews with 7 leaders from these hotels.  The survey probed 18 indicators of resilience related to leadership, communication, staff engagement, decision-making, innovation and creativity, partnerships, unity of purpose and crisis management.  The researchers also gathered data concerning steps taken to respond to the crisis, such as financial assistance and PPP, staff reductions, and to operations and amenities. The results indicated that:

  • Hotels re-thought and enhanced their crisis management plans and procedures in ways that likely will outlast the immediate crisis.
  • “Resilient Leadership” was demonstrated by participating hotels, showing high levels of empathy, decisiveness, transparency and innovation in approaching the pandemic. On the downside, leaders reported struggling to maintain optimism and morale during the crisis.
  • Hotels went to extraordinary lengths to communicate with employees and guests in innovative ways, which could change long-term management practices.
  • Hotels have adapted to doing more with less, and pre-pandemic staffing levels may never return. Organizations are flatter, teamwork and collaboration have flourished, and front-line staff have been empowered in new ways.
  • New levels of creativity and innovation has been unleashed by hotel staff to keep guests satisfied, while maintaining safety protocols and amenity standards.
  • Overall, hotels are more resilient because of the pandemic, but more upscale and better resourced hotels appeared better positioned for enhanced resilience.

The study also highlights potential challenges facing the industry as it moves toward recovery like how to recreate pre-COVID-19 brand experiences with continued safety protocols, integrate talent into a crisis-sharpened culture and define career progressions in new organizational structures that demand well-rounded, versatile candidates willing to play multiple roles.

The full research report is available at

About Kendall College at National Louis University:  Kendall College is the #1 program in Chicago for preparing students for careers in culinary arts and hospitality management. Kendall College’s curriculum combines a strong academic foundation with transformative practical experience to position students for a rewarding career.

About The Illinois Hotel & Lodging Association:  IHLA is a not-for-profit, 501(c)(6) trade association that represents the lodging industry in Illinois. IHLA members consist of over 500 hotels and their employees throughout the state as well as related industry partners and suppliers.

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