47% of WI hotels may close amid COVID, counting on local business

Economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic continues to hit hotels around the globe. Now we're getting a better understanding of how that industry has been affected in Wisconsin, where a shocking number of hotels could close in the next year.

"We've been saying a long time that our industry is devastated," said Bill Elliott, Wisconsin Hotel & Lodging Association president and CEO. "Now we're really seeing it start to take effect."

Elliott said the extent of damage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic is becoming clear. A recent internal survey shows a staggering 47% of Wisconsin lodging establishments could be forced to close in the next year without loan or grant assistance. 

"We need help from the federal level," said Elliott. "We need help from the state level."

More than 50% of hotel staff in the state remain furloughed or laid off.  

Brewhouse Inn and Suite

Brewhouse Inn and Suite

"It's definitely been a little bit of a struggle," said Emily Rauber, director of sales at the Brewhouse Inn and Suites in the former Pabst Brewery.

FREE DOWNLOAD: Get breaking news alerts in the FOX6 News app for iOS or Android

Brewhouse Inn and Suite

Brewhouse Inn and Suite

Rauber said they've had to adapt amid COVID-19.

"Being an independent hotel definitely has an advantage for us right now," said Rauber.

They're promoting private workspaces available to rent -- offering an alternative to working from home.

Dubbel Dutch

Dubbel Dutch

"We are hopeful, to say the least," said Patrick Jones, co-owner of Dubbel Dutch near Marshall and Wells in Milwaukee.

Dubbel Dutch opened in July, with sights set on the Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee.

"Obviously, we were well into the project when coronavirus arose," said Jones. "There was no turning back at that point."

Wisconsin hotel industry and COVID-19

Appealing to the independent traveler, the boutique hotel features self-check-in and keypad entries. Jones said as of late, they're tapping into an unexpected market.

"A lot of staycationers in Milwaukee right now," said Jones. "They want to get out, and this is a safe and viable way to do so."

Through social media and word-of-mouth, boutique hotels -- especially now -- are counting on local business to stay afloat.