The eight-week advertising campaign, at a cost of $721,000 launched January 9 and ran consecutively through March 5 and was supported by proactive media relations and a targeted distribution of Chicago's Official Visitors Guide. Overall, the winter campaign was a tremendous success delivering $165 in visitor spending for every $1 invested, according to analysis conducted by Strategic Marketing & Research, Inc (SMARI).
"The advent of Chicago's first regional campaign delivered significant revenues, especially during need periods," said Don Welsh, Choose Chicago President and CEO. "Increased leisure visitation to Chicago delivers immediate value for the city's overall economic development efforts as well as our hotels, restaurants, theaters, retail and cultural attractions. The overwhelming positive response to this effort clearly shows that a well-developed and flawlessly executed campaign drives increased visitor spending and the new tax revenues."
Chicago hotels realized growth in occupancy, average daily rate (ADR) and revenue per available room (RevPAR) for the first four months in 2012. Occupancy and ADR were up to 63.1 percent and $154.47, a 10.3 and 8.3 percent change from last year, while RevPAR was up to $97.43, a 19.4 percent change from last year.
First unveiled in late 2011 as part of Chicago's new brand and marketing strategy, Choose Chicago partnered with Chicago-based firms, including Downtown Partners Chicago for creative and M|Buy, Inc. for media buying. The cooperative effort was possible due to the support and investment of five of the city's core institutions and attractions, including Broadway in Chicago, The Field Museum, Museum of Science and Industry, Navy Pier and Shedd Aquarium.
"The campaign included a unified, cohesive image and voice to emphasize Chicago's vibrancy and marquee assets," said Warren Wilkinson, Choose Chicago Chief Marketing Officer. "The compelling creative highlighting Chicago's dining, theater and cultural attractions was deployed over multiple mediums including broadcast television and digital advertising that was behaviorally and geographically targeted."
"SMARI tests advertising campaigns for major tourism destinations across the country, and the results from the Chicago campaign were quite impressive," said Denise Miller, Vice President, SMARI. "The campaign exceeded national benchmarks for media efficiency, the strength of the creative and the return on investment generated. Choose Chicago hit a homerun with their first effort."
SMARI conducted interviews throughout the five key markets exploring actual visitation to Chicago during the first four months of 2012, as well as the motivations and specific details of those trips. Based on nearly 1,750 interviews, research revealed the campaign was most effective in Detroit, delivering 59,169 incremental trips, followed by Milwaukee with 33,703. The average trip length was 2.3 nights and average trip expenditure resulted in $839. Key motivation for trips was the variety of activities the city offered during the winter season - a message that was reinforced by the advertising. The most popular activities were dining and shopping, followed by nightlife, Shedd Aquarium, Millennium Park and the Museum of Science and Industry.
"Our Board of Directors strongly promoted the marketing campaign development investment necessary to drive increased visitation to Chicago during the winter and summer months," said Bruce Rauner, Choose Chicago Chairman. "The results are proof that these strategic investments significantly increase visitation to Chicago and support Mayor Emanuel's vision of reaching 50 million visitors annually by 2020."
The first regional campaign promoting travel to Chicago during the summer season launched Monday, May 28 in the same five key drive markets. The 12-week campaign runs through Sunday, August 19. Choose Chicago will report on the summer campaign's advertising effectiveness, including what influenced the travel and a comprehensive economic impact analysis detailing visitor spend, trip length by market in October 2012.
At the current rate of 42 million visitors annually, Chicago's visitor industry is an economic engine directly responsible for 124,000 jobs, $616 million in tax revenue and $11.1 billion in direct spending**. Projected at a rate of 50 million visitors annually, the direct impact could increase to 155,000-165,000 jobs, $1.2 - $1.3 billion per year in tax revenue and $14.7 billion in direct spending.
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** Based on 2010 visitor volume
Sources: Strategic Marketing and Research, Inc, Smith Travel Research
About Choose Chicago
Choose Chicago is the official sales and marketing organization responsible for promoting Chicago as a global visitor destination to business and leisure travelers. Choose Chicago works in partnership with its more than 1,100 members; Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce; Illinois Bureau of Tourism; Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, owner and operator of McCormick Place and World Business Chicago.
About Strategic Marketing & Research, Inc. (SMARI)
SMARI is a full service market research company with a specialization in leisure and travel organizations. We have conducted research for more than 20 state tourism agencies, 50 city DMOs, and many national and regional attractions. Clients include numerous state and city destination marketing organizations, including California, Texas, Florida, South Carolina, Missouri, Arizona, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Orlando and Phoenix.