Mayor Emanuel announced Tuesday that Chicago broke tourism records in 2015. For the first time in the city’s history, 50 million domestic tourists visited Chicago in a single year.
According to the mayor’s office, the total number of visitors to the city, including international travelers, is set to exceed 52 million for the year.
In addition to this, the city’s tourism industry reportedly supported an estimated 139,800 jobs. The industry added 15,000 jobs since 2010 and 3,800 new jobs in 2015.
“The more visitors we attract, the more jobs we support for residents all throughout the city of Chicago,” Emanuel said in a statement. “While I am proud of the 15,000 jobs that our tourism industry has created in the past five years alone, I know we can do even better. With the help of marquee events like this week’s NFL Draft, we will build on this progress and continue generating jobs in neighborhoods throughout Chicago.”
The NFL received large discounts to hold their 2015 and 2016 drafts in Grant Park, according to DNAinfo. This year, the league will pay $103,000 to rent the space, although the Chicago Park District values the three-day rental at roughly $3.2 million dollars.
City officials argue that the event draws tourists and revenue to the city. This year’s draft is set to kick off on Thursday night. Last week, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell told the Chicago Sun-Times that it's "very likely" the league's draft will leave Chicago in 2017.
Nevertheless, Chicago is on track to reach Emanuel’s goal of having 55 million annual visitors to the city by 2020.
“We are firmly on target to reach Mayor Emanuel’s goal of 55 million visitors by 2020,” Choose Chicago Interim CEO Marc Anderson said in a statement. “This record-breaking year was achieved while an additional 529,000 rooms were added to the market in 2015.”
Visitors’ direct spending reached an estimated $14.9 billion in 2015. This is a 34 percent increase from 2010. Leisure and business visitation both grew in the city in 2015.
All told, tourism generated $935 million in tax revenue, $2.2 billion in hotel revenue and $124.1 million in hotel tax revenue for the year.