Chicago sets tourism record with 55 million visitors in 2017: mayor

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Hundreds of local residents, tourists and jazz enthusiasts gather at Millennium Park Labor Day weekend each year to enjoy the largest free jazz festival in the world. | Photo credit: Patrick L. Pyszka, City of Chicago

Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced Sunday that the city has reached a goal of attracting 55 million yearly visitors two years ahead of schedule.

The number of visitors to the city was up by 1.5 million in 2017, a 2.5 percent increase over 2016, according to the mayor’s office. Last year, 55.2 million people visited the city.

“Tourism in Chicago means jobs throughout Chicago,” Emanuel said in a news release. “By continuing to set new tourism records and bring millions more people to Chicago every year, we are generating economic opportunities that reach every Chicagoneighborhood.”

The city’s tourism industry supported an estimated 146,500 jobs in 2017, a 17 percent increase since Emanuel took office, the mayor’s office said.

Hotels in the city reported an 6.3 percent increase in “leisure visitors” in 2017, according to figures provided by the mayor’s office. The increase was particularly strong between June and September, and was more than double the growth of the previous summer.

Five new hotels opened in 2017 and another eight are scheduled to open this year, the city said.

The city also saw growth in the number of visitors attending conventions in the city. Of the 40 largest conventions held at McCormick Place, 21 saw an increase in attendance over 2016 and seven broke records selling exhibit space, which the mayor’s office called “another encouraging industry trend.”

The mayor also touted that the Global Business Travel Association has committed to holding their annual convention — the world’s largest business travel event — at McCormick Place in July.

Desiree Rogers, board chair of Choose Chicago, said: “Our goal now will be to harness this momentum and continue to build upon it.”

Choose Chicago was launched as the city’s new tourism organization by Emanuel in 2012, according to the marketing organization’s website. The new agency brought all tourism sales and marketing under a single agency.

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