A note from the President and CEO
We are quickly approaching the end of the year and, with all that we have been working on over the last two months, I am very much looking forward to a bit of quiet time before hitting the ground running in 2024.
We have so much to share since our last newsletter. The Partnership team has officially announced dates and participating restaurants in both First Bites Bash and Chicago Restaurant Week for 2024. We are so excited to be partnering with our Host Chef Dominique Leach of Lexington Betty Smokehouse for First Bites Bash!
Thanks to those of you who were able to attend our December partner networking event at The Cauldron in Wicker Park; we love to see you and provide a space for you to get to know one another whenever we can. Look out for invitations coming soon for a January educational event featuring an in-depth presentation on global and local tourism trends by Paul Ouimet of MMGY.
The Sales, Client Services, and Tourism and Global Development teams have been working hard to close business before the end of 2023 and have had a presence at major industry events locally, nationally, and internationally. I can’t thank my team leaders enough for their commitment to promoting Chicago as a premier global leisure and meetings destination.
As you may have seen in local news coverage, our Neighborhood Strategy team has partnered with the Mayor’s Office and the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) to support holiday-themed activities and events in 10 neighborhoods around the city. These events are driving additional foot traffic to local commercial corridors to support independent businesses during the crucial holiday shopping season.
In a final note from me, I just want to say that I am so proud of all that we have collectively accomplished in 2023. Chicago hosted a first of its kind NASCAR street race, we secured the DNC for 2024, we broke hotel occupancy records, and we were named Best Big City in the U.S. for a seventh consecutive year. Our city remains a global destination thanks to all of you. You provide the welcoming spirit, the unmatched experiences, and the authenticity that makes Chicago stand above the rest. Thank you for all that you do. I look forward to the year to come.
President and CEO
Welcome new partners
First Bites Bash and Chicago Restaurant Week
Overhead view of the Great Hall in the Field Museum during the 2023 First Bites Bash
First Bites Bash, the official kick-off for Chicago Restaurant Week, is returning to the iconic Field Museum on January 18 from 6 to 9 PM. First Bites Bash is one of the most anticipated culinary celebrations of the year. Guests can enjoy an all-inclusive gourmet tasting event showcasing bites from over 50 acclaimed Chicago restaurants while exploring select Field Museum exhibits after hours.
This year’s Host Chef is Dominique Leach, owner of Lexington Betty Smokehouse in Pullman and recent winner of “BBQ Brawl” on Food Network. Proceeds from the event will support Chicago-based food education nonprofit Pilot Light along with the James Beard Foundation Scholarship Program.
Get your First Bites Bash tickets here before they’re gone!
The 17th annual Chicago Restaurant Week runs January 19 – February 4, 2024. This 17-day celebration of the city’s award-winning culinary scene includes over 350 restaurants across Chicagoland. Diners can enjoy special prix-fixe menus for brunch ($25), lunch ($25), or dinner ($42 or $59). Explore the full list of participating restaurants here.
January Partner Educational Event
Save the Date!
Wednesday, January 24 | 8:30 – 10:00 AM
Don’t miss this exclusive presentation on insights into the future landscape of tourism and actionable strategies to elevate Chicago as a visitor destination.
Join us as Paul Ouimet, Partner and President of MMGY NextFactor, delves into key trends and best practices in the travel and tourism industry. Paul will discuss takeaways from MMGY’s 2023 Future Study and reveal the results of the DestinationNEXT assessment, an in-depth survey of key stakeholders and clients on Chicago’s strengths, opportunities, and community alignment.
Invitations and additional details to follow.
Update from the Sales and Services team
The Choose Chicago Sales and Services teams attended multiple major national and local industry convenings recently, where they have been meeting with both current and prospective clients. These included IAEE Expo! Expo! (the “show of shows”) in Dallas, the Conference Direct Forum in Austin, and Amex Inter[action] in Seattle.
Locally, the team also participated in the annual Association Forum Holiday Showcase, where Choose Chicago sponsored the keynote address and SVP of Sales and Services Dustin Arnheim and VP of Sales Cahal Mowery shared remarks on our priorities for 2024 with the audience of association leaders.
Finally, a group led by VP of Sales Eric Kincaid attended the 40th Annual Convention of the National Coalition of Black Meeting Professionals (NCBMP) in Atlanta Georgia. Choose Chicago sponsored a panel on politics and tourism at NCBMP that Deputy Mayor Kenya Merritt participated in. Thanks to Eric and Director of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Roz Stuttley for sharing remarks with the audience prior to the panel discussion!
Choose Chicago’s Tawny Ruane and Mackenzie Geisen at Amex Inter[action] in Seattle
Roz Stuttley and Eric Kincaid deliver remarks ahead of a panel discussion at NCBMP in Atlanta
Highlights from Recent Shows
- November 26 – 29 | RSNA Annual Meeting: The 109th Scientific Assembly and Annual Meeting of the Radiological Society of North American drew more than 40,000 attendees from 120 countries, with nearly 40% traveling from outside North America to attend the conference. More than 700 exhibiting companies attended, taking up over 400,000 square feet of exhibit space.
Upcoming Shows and Events at McCormick Place
- January 22 – 24 | 2024 AHR Expo: Billed as the event for HVAC professionals, AHR Expo brings together manufacturers and suppliers of all sizes and specialties to share ideas and showcase the future of their industry. Approximately 50,000 attendees are expected at the event.
- February 10 – 19 | 2024 Chicago Auto Show: The annual event showcases new products from more than 20 global automakers and draws hundreds of thousands of attendees each year.
Tourism and Global Development Updates
The Tourism and Global Development team has also been busy with meetings and industry events. The team recently traveled to London to participate in Brand USA Travel Week. The event is designed for U.S. destinations to meet with major travel-trade professionals and tour operators from Europe. Choose Chicago conducted more than 40 individual appointments with top-level European travel-trade industry leaders. These meetings are critical to the future of group tour volume in our market.
The meetings floor at Brand USA Travel Week in London
Neighborhood Holiday Activations and OOH Ads
In partnership with the Mayor’s Office and the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE), the Choose Chicago Neighborhood Strategy team is working to support a series of holiday-themed activities and events in ten neighborhoods across the city. This effort is meant to drive additional foot traffic to neighborhood commercial corridors and support small businesses during the winter holiday shopping season. Activations supported include parades, tree lighting ceremonies, storefront window displays, live music events, and more. Funding for this project comes from ARPA grants earmarked for supporting small business recovery in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Puerto Rican flag in Humboldt Park’s Paseo Boricua illuminated for the first time to celebrate the holidays; approximately 500 people attended the lighting ceremony
To support these activations and encourage additional regional visitation to Chicago neighborhoods outside the central business district, the Neighborhood Strategy team is running an out of home advertising campaign through the end of the year. The campaign encourages shopping locally and includes five billboards along key expressways and CTA advertisements.
Example of current advertising campaign encouraging Chicagoans and visitors to shop locally this holiday season
RECENT MEDIA HIGHLIGHTS
- TheStar.com: Why Chicago is the ‘Best Big City in the U.S.’ — again
- IrishExaminer.com: 48 hours in Chicago: a ‘second city’ with civic pride forged in hard work
- Masculin.com: L’Hotel Zachary : où l’histoire de Chicago rencontre le confort contemporain
- FOX32 Chicago: Chicago’s best holiday destinations
- FlowPaper.com: Kia_Ora_December_2023
- Elle: 8 activités immanquables à Chicago, l’alternative à New York
- Forbes: Chicago’s Holiday Season Packed with New Experiences
- OliveSoftware.com: ROAM FOR THE HOLIDAYS – Houston Chronicle, 11/23/2023
- FOX32: Chicago restaurants preparing for First Bites Bash next month