The newly branded tourism agency, designed to condense Chicago’s tourism into a single entity, declared official status Friday boasting a new organizational structure, international offices and a new attraction strategy.
“We are working together to showcase this most American of American cities to everyone in the world and create jobs and economic opportunity for our residents,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel in a statement. “By focusing our tourism efforts we have saved millions of dollars that we can reinvest into advertising and other attraction efforts.”
Despite its new declaration of authenticity, the agency, which combines the Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau and the tourism portion of Chicago Office of Tourism and Culture, already has fiddled with some new strategies for bringing visitors up by 25 percent.
The April release of Chicago’s theme song, for one, left a painful mark on the ears of many residents. But Choose Chicago also revamped city visitor centers with digital touch screens and teams of tourism ambassadors outfitted with iPads, and released the city’s first-ever advertising campaign throughout Cincinnati, Detroit, Grand Rapids, Indianapolis, Milwaukee and St. Louis.
With Chicago being named second best city by Travel and Leisure magazine, the highest Chicago has ranked since the survey began 17 years ago, and June hotel rates reaching over 90 percent, the agency and Emanuel say the city is on its way to the top.
The mayor hopes to obtain 50 million visitors a year by 2020, and he plans to use Choose Chicago as a major tool in his endeavor.
“Our goal of 50 million visitors to Chicago by 2020 and increasing Chicago’s share of international travel to the United States is an achievable goal and will drive significant economic benefits for the city,” said Don Welsh, president and CEO of Choose Chicago, in a statement. “Our organization will aggressively work to drive increased visitation to Chicago including meetings and convention business as well as regional, national and international leisure visitation.”