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Partner Insights & Updates

APRIL 2021

A Note from the President & CEO

As we continue to welcome warmer weather and increased (albeit still slowly) activity and openings, this newsletter provides Choose Chicago a chance to update our partners on a few key areas. While we had hoped to share more significant news on major meetings and events, we remain anxiously optimistic as vaccines increase. Additional vaccines for Chicago and the rest of the state will be a key bridge to ultimately getting to Phase 5.

First, please take a moment and mark your calendar — Choose Chicago’s Annual Meeting of Partnership has been confirmed for Thursday, May 27 from 3:00 – 4:30 pm. We have not determined if this will be a completely virtual meeting or include an in-person element, based on current conditions and restrictions.

And speaking of marking your calendars, our friends at Ateema have announced plans for their annual Hospitality & Tourism Summit, a fun and informative event.

In this newsletter, you’ll find highlights of our incredible partnership with the Illinois Restaurant Association and our recently completed Chicago Restaurant Week — perhaps never more important and needed than this year.

You’ll also find features on a wonderful group of new partners who have joined Choose Chicago. Please consider engaging with them if the opportunity exists and welcome them to our Choose Chicago family.

We’d also like to share several key elements of our ongoing 2021 Strategic Plan, including recent research insights, updates from our Meetings & Convention Sales team, and innovative new ways we are collaborating to expand our (and our partners’) storytelling and neighborhood engagement.

Last but certainly not least, we are very proud of a new initiative at Choose Chicago — our Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion program now capably led by our newly assigned director, Roz Stuttley.

Roz Stuttley

Many of you remember Roz and the amazing work she has done as our Director of Client Services. Roz now takes on an important opportunity for Choose Chicago, our staff, and our partners in truly making a difference. You will be hearing a lot more about this initiative in future reports including ways your organization can get involved.

In closing, we wanted to share encouraging insights from our most recent consumer sentiment survey. We asked people from the suburbs, Illinois, and surrounding states about their likelihood to visit our city in the upcoming months. In March, 33% of Illinois respondents outside the Chicagoland area said they would likely visit Chicago in the next six months — up from 25% in January. In our survey of regional states, respondent’s likelihood to visit Chicago in the next six months increased from 19% to 26%.

During this time, we’ve also seen increased engagement from potential visitors on, our most vital planning and inspiration tool. These findings all speak to renewed interest and awareness from nearby travelers and the tremendous potential of our amazing city.

Partner Engagement & Advocacy

Spotlight on New Partners to Choose Chicago

Welcome new March partners of Choose Chicago! We’re excited to work with you to help promote your organization and Chicago as a world-class business and leisure destination.

Cushman & Wakefield

Datasis AV and Computer Rental Services

Boat Tours
Chicago Fireboat Tours

Concierge Services

Destination Marketing Organization
Uptown United & Uptown Chamber of Commerce

Dining American
Bureau Bar & Restaurant
Girl & the Goat

Dining Caribbean
Cocoa Chili Restaurant & Catering

Dining French
The Brasserie at Waldorf Astoria Chicago

Dining Mexican
Tallboy Taco – Streeterville
Tatas Tacos Lakeview
Tatas Tacos Six Corners
Wild Taco

Dining Seafood
Eddie V’s Prime Seafood

Event Management/Production
akire productions
Rose Gold Collective

Exhibitors/General Contractors
Valley Expo & Displays

Food & Beverage Tours
Finger Licking Foodie Tours

Special Interest Tours
Fit Tours Chicago

Specialty Stores
Send Some Chicago

Historical Site/Visitor Information
Pullman National Monument

Success of Chicago Restaurant Week

The 14th annual Chicago Restaurant Week has concluded and all indications suggest that this year’s event was extremely well received by consumers and restaurants alike. Over 290 restaurants participated from March 19 – April 4, offering prix-fixe menu options for brunch, lunch, and dinner. New this year was the option for dining partners to offer their Restaurant Week menu for take out and/or delivery as well as for dine-in. Some highlights include:

  • 34 neighborhoods represented
  • 92 restaurants participating for the first time
  • 35 suburban restaurants
  • 40 women and/or minority owned businesses

The event garnered significant media coverage and was supported by a fully integrated marketing campaign including print, digital, out of home, and social media efforts.

Thank you to our Chicago Restaurant Week 2021 Sponsors; 100.3fm SHE, 101.9fm TheMIX, OpenTable, Smithfield Culinary, Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits, and Yelp.

2021 Chicago Visitors Guide Polybag Program

To inspire summer trip planning across our drive markets, Choose Chicago has developed a robust Chicago Visitors Guide polybag program. The program includes the distribution of 81,000 Visitors Guides, along with dedicated emails featuring the digital guide to 150,000 subscribers, covering seven key drive markets for Chicago.


Hospitality & Tourism Summit - Chicago 2021

Choose Chicago is a proud sponsor of this year’s Hospitality & Tourism Summit, which will be held June 8th at the Aon Grand Ballroom at Navy Pier. This year’s event is more important than ever as the industry comes together to let people know that Chicago is reopening responsibly for tourism and events.

If you are looking to rebuild your network and your business, find new vendors or venues, get up-to-date on industry trends and tactics, or reconnect with industry influencers, please join us! The event will feature:

  • 75+ exhibitors including venues, event services, attractions, restaurants, transportation, shops, and more
  • 6+ virtual educational events
  • New Entertainment Showcase, featuring live music and entertainment from bands, magicians, speakers and entertainers of all types
  • Sample food and drinks from some of Chicago’s best venues
  • COVID safety program driven by Safe Expo

Click here for information on attending and exhibitor information.

Meetings & Conventions

All In Chicago

All In Chicago is an incentive program that launched in August 2020 to inspire short-term bookings. To support this incentive, we created a landing page that provides a variety of resources for our meeting planner clients. This program’s end date has already been extended twice since its inception. The promotion is being offered for all new programs that take place during select periods through Q1 2024 and are contracted by Dec.31, 2021. Choose Chicago will be launching a digital campaign to promote All In Chicago beginning May 1, 2021 through Northstar, American Express Meetings & Events, and Facebook that will target new and local business.

Learn more

Connecting to Chicago

The new Connecting to Chicago (C2C) initiative, developed by the Choose Chicago Client Services team, assists convention clients in growing their events by strategizing on community outreach and tapping into the vast intellectual capital in the Chicagoland area.

Connecting to Chicago

The goal of the our C2C program is to:

  • Increase attendance
  • Source local industry expert speakers
  • Increase student involvement
  • Expand outreach to potential exhibiting companies
  • Expand media and international outreach
  • Discover new exhibiting companies
  • Recommend community service projects and source local charities for donations from events and exhibitors
  • Work side-by-side with clients for the success of their event

Examples of C2C’s outreach include sharing upcoming conventions with our world-class technology hubs, including 1871, MATTER, mHUB, and others. America’s Urban Campus will promote conventions to Chicago’s hundreds of thousands of higher education students. Additional outreach could include to local media, Chicago International Trade Commissioners’ Association, Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, The Magnificent Mile Association, and more.

The Client Services team continues to play a key — and expanding — role in strategizing with clients for the mutual goal of hosting successful events in Chicago. For additional information on the C2C initiative contact, Rose Horcher, Vice President, Client Services at or 312-375-8630.

Healthy Meetings Chicago

In partnership with the Metropolitan Pier & Exposition Authority and the Chicago Department of Aviation, in January we rolled out Healthy Meetings Chicago, a new, multimedia journey. This interactive digital journey illustrates the attendee and exhibitor experience beginning at one of Chicago’s airports and highlights the city’s many transportation travel options. From there it continues to the McCormick Square campus as well as to Chicago’s countless restaurants, unique outdoor and indoor attractions and diverse neighborhoods.

Storytelling & Neighborhood Engagement

Neighborhood Hub Project

As part of the City’s Recovery Task Force, Choose Chicago is working to identify focus neighborhoods to increase visitation from both local and out-of-town guests. Individual Chicagoans and local chambers of commerce have been asked to provide feedback on what makes their community special with a neighborhood tourism survey. We will be working with community members to sort this data and identify ten neighborhoods on which to focus our efforts this year. This initiative will also include listening sessions and neighborhood-driven content to be launched in June.

Chicago Alfresco

Choose Chicago is partnering with the City of Chicago and Diageo North America to create new neighborhood community spaces through the Chicago Alfresco program. This program is an integral part of Choose Chicago’s push for more neighborhood tourism and one pillar of the City’s broader initiative to open streets and create places for dining, public life, community, arts, culture, walking, and biking. The City is currently reviewing applications, which will be approved in May. Choose Chicago will be providing grants to non-profit neighborhood organizations to execute these plans, thanks to a generous $2.5 million donation from Diageo, with ribbon-cuttings planned for June. These grants will cover public way enhancements that improve the neighborhood and increase foot traffic, and 75% of the funds will be distributed to communities on the South and West Sides. Learn more about Chicago Alfresco.

Coming soon: AI Chatbot

Choose Chicago is partnering with Northwestern University’s Knight Lab and BotsCrew Inc. to create an AI Chatbot on The Chatbot will provide information for visitors to inspire pre-trip planning and suggest activities while they’re in Chicago. A ten-week work plan has been developed to launch this new feature at the end of June.

Expanded Neighborhood Greeter Program

The Chicago Greeter program is expanding its core functions and introducing two new initiatives to raise awareness of the city’s neighborhoods and drive visitation. First, we will be publishing a variety of self-guided walking tours, in partnership with Bank of America. These tours, created by knowledgeable Greeters, will encourage visitors to explore our neighborhoods and discover hidden gems, cultural attractions, locally owned restaurants, and more.

The second initiative is a new series of walking tours in partnership with neighborhood organizations. This walking tour series, which will take place each Saturday from June through September, will be led by a variety of neighborhood groups. This will allow each organization to tell the unique story of their neighborhood and expand the number of neighborhood walks offered by the Chicago Greeter program.

Social Media Influencer Program

From last June through the end of 2020, Choose Chicago’s Media Relations team supported 28 local social media influencers who had a combined Instagram following of just under 2 million. Our local ambassadors experienced the city’s reopenings through day trips and staycations, and promoted their experiences to their friends, fans, and followers through posts, stories, videos, reels, guides, and more.

From January through April of 2021, the Media Relations team has hosted 39 social media influencers who have a combined Instagram following of 5.3 million. These influencers, along with our traditional media, will continue to play a key role in supporting our partners and sharing their stories and offerings.

Chicago Reopening Influencer Results 1

Chicago Reopening Influencer Results 2

Research & Insights

March 2021 Consumer Sentiment Executive Summary

We are pleased to share our most recent update, the March 2021 consumer sentiment report. We are seeing optimism toward travel since the last survey in January. We see a steady growth in people who are ready to travel and nearly ready to travel with the continued rollout of the vaccine, including the 55+ age group. The survey also showed encouraging growth in people actively planning and researching a trip.

Encouraging Website Growth

Aligned with the positive trends in the consumer sentiment report, we have seen growth in engagement with Engagements in Q1 2021 were up 24% vs. Q4 2020, including a 23% increase from out-of-state users.

Last July, engagements with our website were 680,344 and have now grown to 1,077,166 in March 2021, another welcomed trend.

Key Industry Insights
  • GBTA survey: Travel managers see travelers increasingly ready to hit the road
    Travel Weekly
    Nearly two-thirds of member corporate travel managers surveyed this month by the Global Business Travel Association believe their organizations’ employees now are ready to travel for business, the highest figure by a good margin recorded in the monthly surveys the association has conducted in the past six months.


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