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Beloit hotels remain optimistic leisure travel can make up pandemic setbacks

Tourism officials say regional travel could aid the hospitality industry’s 2020 losses.
Beloit hotels report room occupancy down by about half in 2020 compared to the previous year.
Beloit hotels report room occupancy down by about half in 2020 compared to the previous year.(WMTV)
Published: Jan. 8, 2021 at 3:41 PM CST
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BELOIT, Wis. (WMTV) - Tourism officials projected that 2020 in Beloit would be a record year.

“We were on pace for a banner year,” said Celestino Ruffini, Visit Beloit CEO. “Everything to do in the tourism industry, unfortunately, has been impacted.”

The COVID-19 pandemic impacted travel, restaurants, and hotel stays in Downtown Beloit.

“2020 as far as the tourism industry goes was probably one of the most difficult years that we’ve ever experienced,” said Ruffini. “The numbers truly paint a bleak story for how 2020 ended up for our hotel industry.”

At Ironworks Hotel, General Manager Stephanie Ashley-Hoppe says occupancy was down by 45 percent.

However, area hotel managers are optimistic a new year will help turn the page on a tough financial year for hospitality.

“Occupancy was down across the board but we did see travel pick up as the months went on,” said Ashley-Hoppe.

The type of guests staying overnight changed from business travelers and wedding guests to those on vacation.

“We did see a lot of leisure travel replacing what is mainly corporate driven,” noted Ashley-Hoppe. “Typically, we’re very corporate driven during the week and wedding based on the weekends.”

Visit Beloit reports out of the city’s 10 hotels, on average, 291 rooms were sold each night which is down from 397 rooms per night in 2019.

Ironworks Hotel and Hotel Goodwin had visitors from Wisconsin but also Illinois and Minnesota too.

“I think people were trying to stay away from cities and the more urban markets,” said Ashley-Hoppe. “We’re a little bit of a smaller community.”

Ruffini thinks Beloit’s proximity to Illinois helped because of the difference in Wisconsin’s COVID-19 restrictions for bars and restaurants.

“It definitely has made a difference to see Illinois visitors come across the state line,” said Ruffini.

In 2021, Ashley-Hoppe and her staff at Ironworks Hotel are eager to welcome guests who are experiencing the city for the first time. She says she had the chance to talk with many guests new to Beloit.

“They were just so happy to be out and about and have something new and different and fun to do,” she said. “I think we have gained some guests who will come back and maybe start their traditions here.”

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