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Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Don Welsh, President and CEO of Choose Chicago, today announced that Chicago broke the 50 million visitor mark for the first time in 2014. Last year, Chicago set a new visitation record estimated at 50.2 million visitors, a 3.5% increase over 2013. Chicago’s tourism industry is directly responsible for continued job growth, direct spending and tax revenue. Since 2010, the tourism and hospitality industries have added 9800 jobs, generating $13.7 billion in direct spending by visitors and $871 million in total tax revenue. The continued record performance shows that the city is on pace to achieve Mayor Emanuel’s goal of 55 million visitors a year by the year 2020.
“Continuing to grow Chicago’s tourism industry is a vital part of our strategy to create jobs and promote economic growth in neighborhoods all throughout the City of Chicago,” said Mayor Emanuel. “In less than four years, we have increased our number of visitors by 10 million per year, adding more than 9,400 jobs. These gains prove what can happen when we have a coordinated strategy to promote tourism and make the right investments in our airports, our transit system, and our infrastructure. This progress also proves that our goal of attracting 55 million visitors per year is in reach.”
Chicago saw records across almost all key performance indicators throughout the year, including hotel room demand which saw records for nine consecutive months and totaled 10.24 million room nights for the first time in the city’s history. This was supported by a record occupancy rate of 75.68 percent. The result is that the City of Chicago saw $2.03 billion in hotel revenue in 2014 and hotel tax revenue of $113.5 million, the third consecutive year this revenue has eclipsed $100 million.
While domestic travel accounted for a majority of the increases that led to 2014’s historic year, international visitation continues to increase. Domestic visitation grew to an estimated 48.64 million in 2014, up 3.6 percent over 2013, contributing to ten months of record room demand. For the first time in the summer of 2014, Chicago saw records across all key performance indicators. Chicago welcomed an estimated 15.3 million visitors during that time. Domestic business travel also rebounded in 2014, from a slight decline in 2013 to an estimated six-year high of 11.31 million visitors, a gain of 3.8 percent.
“This exceptional performance was achieved while an additional 382,000 room nights were added to the market in 2014,” said Welsh. “Chicago continues to have one of the fastest growing domestic markets for new hotel development, and we remain committed to securing new demand generators for the city. With major new events on the horizon, including the NFL Draft, The James Beard Awards, Microsoft Ignite and the ITU World Triathlon Grand Final, 2015 is poised to be Chicago’s best year yet.”
When Mayor Emanuel merged two tourism offices to form Choose Chicago in July 2012, he established bold and aggressive goals to reach 50 million visitors by 2020; to elevate Chicago to among the top 5 U.S. cities for inbound international travel; and to book 2.3 million hotel room nights and 50 new groups annually, which is the largest convention room night goal in the industry. After it became clear that Chicago would meet this goal years ahead of schedule, Mayor Emanuel set a new goal to reach 55 million visitors by 2020.
In 2014, Mayor Emanuel and Choose Chicago announced that Microsoft Ignite and Automechanika Chicago, the leading international automotive trade show, will join the James Beard Foundation Awards and the NFL Draft taking place in Chicago in 2015.
Over the past three years, the City of Chicago has gone from fifth to first in the country as a destination for meetings and conventions. According to Cvent Supplier Network, an event management technology company that annually ranks 50 U.S. cities based upon meeting and event booking activity through their software, Chicago has leapfrogged perennial convention leaders Las Vegas and Orlando, Florida since 2012. This success follows the Mayor’s 2011 agreement with labor to reduce the cost of and streamline the process for holding events at McCormick Place.
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