Cultural Tourism Research Update

In June 2013, Choose Chicago began Phase 1 of its research to support the development of a cultural tourism strategy for Chicago. A benchmark study surveyed a sample of 4,000 cultural travelers from 10 feeder markets including regional, national, and international cities.

The goal of this online survey was to identify feeder markets with the greatest potential for generating new and repeat visitation; develop a comprehensive understanding of how cultural travelers view Chicago’s cultural assets relative to other cities; pinpoint the specific cultural activities with the highest potential for motivating cultural travel to Chicago; reveal if any barriers to visiting Chicago for cultural travel exist; and test the potential for arts and culture promotions to impact visitor spending and length of stay.

Concurrent with the benchmark study, was also the launch of an asset inventory of Chicago’s cultural amenities. In partnership with Civic Consulting Alliance, the objective of this project was to develop an inventory of Chicago’s cultural assets to further develop a cultural tourism positioning and promotional strategy that will increase number of visitors, extend length of stays, and encourage repeat visits to Chicago, all of which will result in additional revenue for the city.

Desk research, competitive analysis from 11 markets, online survey of Chicago’s cultural institutions and interviews with cultural leaders representing various disciplines were conducted as part of this initial phase. The inventory development provided insight on the scope and strength of Chicago’s cultural assets. Findings revealed 500+ City Parks, 26 miles of lakefront, 9 historic parks, over 360 historic landmarks, over 220 dance companies, over 200 theatre companies, over 200 presenting stages, and over 225 music venues.

The next two phases of this project will focus on determining which visitor segments to target; and developing and testing cultural tourism promotional tactics. These phases are expected to be complete later this fall.

A summary of the preliminary results can be viewed here.

Expo Art Week

EXPO ART WEEK, taking place from September 16 -22, is a citywide celebration of arts and culture that will include museum exhibitions; gallery openings; installations; public art projects; music; theatre; dance performances and special dining experiences for national and international cultural travelers.

The week is anchored by EXPO CHICAGO, an International Exposition of Contemporary & Modern Art, taking place from September 19 – 22 at Navy Pier. Now in its second year, EXPO will once again showcase more than 120 leading international galleries representing 16 different countries and 35 different cities, offering a broad spectrum of modern and contemporary artwork.  Building on the success of the exposition’s inaugural year, this year’s fair is poised to position Chicago’s place as an annual international art fair destination. 

During EXPO ART WEEK, Gallery Weekend Chicago (GWC), returns for its third year. Taking place concurrently with EXPO CHICAGO, participating GWC galleries will invite a select group of national and international contemporary art collectors, curators, and critics to Chicago for a curated weekend of private gallery tours, exclusive museum access, and special reservations at top restaurants.

Choose Chicago is proud to promote EXPO ART WEEK to national and international visitors and encourage them to experience all the great cultural events that are taking place during this time. These events highlight Chicago’s emerging arts scene and provides an opportunity to showcase the existing rich cultural offerings in the city.

Expo Art Week


Fall Cultural Preview

The latest partner event held on July 18th at The Art Institute of Chicago was the perfect place to learn about this fall’s hottest happenings in Chicago’s arts and culture scene. A sellout event—The star of TO MASTER THE ART, Karen Janes Woditsch, in character, as the iconic chef Julia Child, presented an extraordinary line up of upcoming exhibitions, theatre, dance, art and more.

Also, key findings were shared from Choose Chicago’s first ever benchmark study on cultural travelers to Chicago and how Chicago’s rich and diverse cultural assets can be leveraged to increase visitation to our city. Afterwards, attendees had plenty of time to network and connect with key Choose Chicago partners and cultural organizations during a reception hosted by Terzo Piano.

An invitation to events such as this are typically exclusive to Choose Chicago partners only. Choose Chicago is eager to engage our cultural organizations large and small, and help expand your reach to the millions of visitors who come to Chicago each year. To learn more about the many benefits and resources available to help partners grow their business, simply visit Packages start for as little as $99 per year!

Partnership Opportunities


Summer may be wrapping up, but visitors are still looking for information. Don’t forget to send us your brochures to replenish the racks at our Visitor Information Centers (VIC) this fall. VICs are located at Chicago Cultural Center at 77 E. Randolph Street and Historic Water Works Pumping Station at 163 E. Pearson Street. 

The VICs welcome more than half a million visitors annually. Please note that the collateral we display in the centers is targeted toward visitors.  Residential-type guides, materials or directories will not be displayed.  If your organization is interested in displaying collateral at our centers or have questions, please contact Melody Laviste, Director of Visitor Services at

Choose Chicago Visitor Information Centers

Marketing Campaigns

The 2013 winter advertising campaign ran for eight weeks earlier this year from January 7 to March 10 in the following markets: Detroit, Grand Rapids, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, and St. Louis.  The overall media investment was $725,000 with 24% placed in television and 76% online ads.  The campaign generated 247,000 incremental visits, 412,000 hotel room nights and $208 million in additional spending from January - April of this year.

Choose Chicago launched its first ever international advertising campaign in London at the beginning of the summer. Selling the many attributes of Chicago, the ad creative speaks specifically to Londoners by using their own idioms with playful references to our city and incorporates elements of the Chicago flag with bold typography.

The London campaign ran through August 25 in prominent locations throughout the city including taxi cabs, the Tube, bus shelters, double decker buses and digital billboards. The outdoor component is complemented with a digital buy, which is driving traffic to special travel deals exclusively for UK travelers at So far, this campaign has resulted in a 1,765% increase in traffic over this period last year to

Marketing Campaigns


Chicago will host one of the travel industry's most powerful events in 2014. U.S. Travel Association's International Pow Wow (IPW) is the visitor industry's largest generator of inbound international travel to the U.S. For three days, this show hosts individual appointments between travel supplier organizations and buyers from around the world. It's also a must-attend media marketplace. The show expects to attract more than 5,000 attendees including pre-qualified international and domestic buyers, and travel journalists from more than 70 countries; over 80,000 pre-scheduled business appointments, and $3.5 billion in future travel to the U.S. generated annually as a result of IPW.

With IPW 2014 less than a year away (April 5-9, 2014), Choose Chicago is in full swing planning this key event for Chicago's visitor industry. Committees have met and are actively crafting every aspect of the attendees' experience in Chicago. As host city, Chicago is responsible for:

  • Greeting attendees at O'Hare airport
  • Offering sightseeing tours on Saturday and Sunday (April 5-6)
  • Working with the State of Illinois to create Post Familiarization tours throughout the state and its surrounding states (April 10-13)
  • Transportation to/from the airport, hotels, McCormick Place, sightseeing tours and evening events
  • Official Opening and Closing evening events on April 6 and 9, respectively
  • Host City booth at McCormick Place
  • Host City Information desks at all eight host hotels
  • A Dine-Around night featuring Chicago's restaurants
  • Media brunch and tours
  • Meetings and Incentives (MICE) event and tours
We anticipate needing more than 700 volunteers to help us execute the many activities we have planned for our international colleagues. We'll need the assistance of all of our partners to be successful, so be sure to look for more information as we move closer to IPW's arrival. For more information, visit

IPW 2014


Choose Chicago is the official destination marketing organization for Chicago, Illinois.

Our mission is to bring regional, national and international business and leisure visitors to Chicago for the economic benefit of the city, the community and our partnership. Read more



The Cultural Tourism Department is responsible for increasing awareness and visitation to Chicago's cultural attractions, events and neighborhoods by promoting the city as a premier cultural destination. Also under cultural tourism, the Visitor Services Department operates two Visitor Information Centers and service over half a million visitors to Chicago annually. The department's four objectives are:

  • Position Chicago as a global cultural destination by leveraging the rich and diverse resources of Chicago's arts, culture, and neighborhoods.
  • Serve as a catalyst for communication and partnerships among agencies, organizations, and stakeholders in arts, culture, and tourism.
  • Enhance the visitor experience and orientation.
  • Establish metrics to measure and track growth.



There are two Visitor Information Centers in the downtown area. They are located in the Loop at the Chicago Cultural Center, 77 E. Randolph, and Historic Water Works Pumping Station located on the Magnificent Mile at 163 E. Pearson St. For more information, click here