Despite gun violence and strained police-community relations, visitors continue to visit The Windy City in record numbers. What is behind this continuing tourism growth in Chicago?
Setting yet another record, 57.6 million people visited Chicago in 2018, a 4.3 percent increase from 2017.
Seven new hotels opened in Chicago in 2018 and hotel room demand by visitors grew 4.3 percent with the overall occupancy rate increased to 75.4 percent for the year.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office said tourism-related employment is estimated to have increased 1.2 percent to an estimated 150,616 jobs. The Mayor views tourism as one of the success stories of his tenure and said he decided to make tourism a priority shortly before he took office.
The mayor focused on fixing problems plaguing the city’s premier convention center, an “under-performing McCormick Place,” and streamlined various entities charged with marketing the city into one office, Choose Chicago.
The city also aggressively pursued big-ticket draws — the NFL Draft, the James Beard Foundation Awards, the Laver Cup — and bolstered tourism-friendly offerings with attractions like the Riverwalk and, more recently, Art on the Mart, as well as events that showcase Chicago’s craft beer scene, such as Friday Night Flights.