For the first time in more than a year, Navy Pier hosted a trade show in the Aon Grand Ballroom this week, as dozens of vendors and hundreds of visitors gathered for the Hospitality and Tourism Summit.
“Being able to celebrate and welcome the hospitality and tourism community back to Navy Pier is just a symbol of what’s to come,” Navy Pier President Marilynn Gardner said. “We know together we will all rebound, and it’s great to be gathered at the pier to celebrate the kickoff of the revival.”
Ateema Media and Marketing hosted the event, with exhibitors from restaurants, theaters, hotels and museums on hand to celebrate not only the return of tourism but also to mark the event’s 20th anniversary.
“We’re excited to let people know it’s safe to come to Chicago and it’s still going to be the great experience you’ve always expected,” said Tim O’Malley, the CEO of Ateema. “Today is about bringing the industry back together.”
Chicago is set to fully reopen Friday as the state moves into Phase 5, when all sectors of the economy can operate at full capacity. Kevin Duff, the president of a local transportation company, has already noticed a shift in the industry.
“We’re seeing a lot of pop up meetings and events,” said Duff, the president of Signature Transportation. “In the past, you had a lot of these event planners coming in and planning far ahead. You’re seeing some weddings even weeks out now. They’re just wanting to get in it.”
At their lowest point, Signature Transportation was operating at just 5% of its typical budget. Now, Duff is optimistic about the future, and says the trade show is the first step to a revival.
“This is really just a shot in the arm for us and our business,” said Duff. “It’s great because now we can rehire the staff unfortunately we had to get rid of. We’re excited.”
A Navy Pier spokesperson says planning is already underway for future events in the coming weeks.