Chicago Announces New, Combined Tourism Organization

Because it's home to the nation's largest convention center — McCormick Place, which boasts 2.6 million square feet of exhibit space — Chicago already is a top-tier destination for meetings and events. It's about to become even more competitive, however, according to Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who this month announced a new tourism organization for the city with the goal of stimulating tourism and streamlining tourism marketing.

The new organization, which has yet to be named, will combine the efforts of the current Chicago Convention & Tourism Bureau and the Chicago Office of Tourism and Culture, resulting in savings of $1.3 million in administrative costs that will be reinvested in national and international marketing campaigns that are expected to attract 50 million annual visitors by 2020, as well as nearly $4 billion a year in additional revenues.

"This new organization will allow us to focus all of the city's efforts to attract visitors for business, pleasure and culture," Emanuel says. "By coordinating our efforts and establishing clear, measurable goals, we will show the world that Chicago is the best place to visit."

Led by current CCTB President and CEO Don Welsh, the new organization will officially launch this summer. In addition to attracting 50 million annual visitors by 2020, its goal will be moving Chicago — which currently ranks 10th — into the top five cities in the nation for overseas visitation, increasing the city's market share among overseas visitors to the United States from 4.3 percent to 6 percent.

"Mayor Emanuel's decision to streamline Chicago's tourism marketing strategy makes strong financial and logistical sense," Welsh says. "Our ultimate goal is to make Chicago the premier destination for domestic and international business and leisure travelers. Today's decision will help the city more cost effectively advance and achieve this vision."