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Mayor Emanuel and Choose Chicago announced today that Chicago, surpassing all expectations, welcomed a record 1.369 million overseas visitors in 2012, representing an impressive 14.2% gain over the 1.199 million overseas visitors reported in 2011, and moving Chicago into 9th place in overall city rankings according to US Department of Commerce rankings.
“I am proud of this landmark year, which is the result of a comprehensive strategy by the City, Choose Chicago and numerous key stakeholders to reach our goal of rising to the 5th most visited U.S. city by international tourists and attracting 50 million visitors annually,” said Mayor Emanuel. “Tourism is a vital, essential part of our economic strategy, and I am determined not to rest on this accomplishment, but to double down on our strategy so that we continue to rise in the rankings year after year and show more of the world all that the most American of American cities has to offer.”
With the inclusion of the official international visitation volume for 2012, Chicago’s revised total visitation set a new record high in 2012 at 46.37 million, meaning in just two years, the city is 66 percent of the way to closing the gap and realizing Mayor Emanuel’s 2020 goal of 50 million visitors. Even this single rise in the rankings has helped drive the record hotel construction we have seen so far this year, as well as a record hotel occupancy rate of more than 73% - the best since the recession. That hotel occupancy produced more than $1 billion of revenue so far in 2013.
“This incredible performance validates the strategy and investment that have been made in the international marketplace for past two years,” said Don Welsh, President and CEO of Choose Chicago. “We have only scratched the surface as a global visitor destination. Working with the right partners in the right countries and collaborating effectively with the Chicago Department of Aviation and our airline partners, we intend to meet Mayor Emanuel’s goal in elevating Chicago to among the top five US destinations for overseas travel.”
The timing of the news is fortuitous as the city prepares to host International Pow Wow in April 2014, a convention for convention planners from around the world.
Growth from Asian markets to Chicago (+30%) was particularly strong, twice that of the national average, as was growth from the South America markets (+18%), with these two markets responsible for more than half a million overseas visitors in 2012. This outsized growth in these two markets reflect the increased marketing that Choose Chicago has placed there, locating new offices and selling Chicago has a top tourism, convention and business destination for these economic zones. 2012 saw a dramatic 41% increase in visitations from the Mexican market to 142,000, more than four times the national growth rate.
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