FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – January 23, 2023
American Rescue Plan Act funds distributed by the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events will allow Choose Chicago to greatly increase efforts to deliver more of the economic benefits of tourism to Chicago’s vibrant neighborhoods.
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CHICAGO, IL – Choose Chicago President and CEO Lynn Osmond is thrilled to announce that Choose Chicago has been awarded $5.5 million to expand its neighborhood tourism initiatives. Funded by the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) through the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE), this grant will allow Choose Chicago to greatly increase its efforts to develop, implement and manage a unified and comprehensive tourism marketing strategy that positions Chicago and its neighborhoods as prime destinations for residents and visitors alike.
“The culture and vibrancy of Chicago can be found beyond our traditional tourist locations,” said Mayor Lightfoot. “Each of our 77 unique neighborhoods are home to rich histories, world-class cuisine, and entertainment that tourists should experience. I’m continually grateful for ARPA funding that allows us to continue our equitable economic recovery by supporting our neighborhoods and the local organizations who uplift them.”
This three-year grant is distributed by DCASE as part of the Chicago Recovery Plan, the City’s plan to amplify once-in-a generation federal funding through ARPA to create an equity-based investment strategy that catalyzes a sustainable economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. The funding will increase Choose Chicago’s Neighborhood Tourism Marketing funding by over 160%, allowing the organization to greatly expand its efforts to encourage visitors to experience the neighborhoods we love and call home.
“Tourism has always been critical economic engine of Chicago, and the COVID-19 pandemic showed just how important tourism is for our city,” said Lynn Osmond, President and CEO of Choose Chicago. “Now, we must take this opportunity to invest in our neighborhoods and ensure that tourism dollars are delivered equitably to all Chicagoans. I want to thank Mayor Lightfoot and DCASE for their support of this important work and I look forward to continuing to build on our commitment to Chicago’s neighborhoods.”
“Through the Chicago Recovery Plan we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to invest in Chicago in an equitable and sustainable way,” said Erin Harkey, Commissioner of the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events. “We are thrilled to support Choose Chicago as they commit to neighborhood tourism and deliver the economic benefits of tourism to every corner of our city.” Tourism is one of the Chicago area’s leading industries, creating 160,000 jobs and $2.5 billion in tax revenue for the City and State prior to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2019. As Chicago continues recovering from the pandemic, it is critical that tourism marketing efforts are delivered in an equitable manner that ensures all Chicagoans receive the economic benefits of tourism. This increased funding will allow Choose Chicago to serve 12 new Community Areas through our neighborhood marketing and promotion efforts, bringing the total to 30 neighborhoods that work closely with Choose Chicago’s Neighborhood Strategy team.
“Over the last two years, we have worked tirelessly to build relationships across the city, relying on the premise that Chicagoans know their own neighborhoods better than anyone else, and certainly better than us at the tourism bureau,” said Rob Fojtik, Vice President, Neighborhood Strategy at Choose Chicago. “This grant funding will give us the chance to significantly increase the resources we devote to marketing neighborhoods and to supporting our community partners. I am proud of the work we have done and continue to do to bring visitors to even more neighborhoods and the cultural institutions, attractions and small businesses that make them special.”
Based on learnings from over 20 community listening sessions conducted over the last two years, Choose Chicago has attempted to identify community needs and provide solutions and resources that empower local stakeholders. Programs being funded by the grant include the following existing and new initiatives:
- Listening Sessions: Neighborhood tourism must be led by the community in order to ensure that it brings economic development without displacement or gentrification. Choose Chicago will hold another series of listening sessions in the participating neighborhoods to identify neighborhood branding points and a list of points of interest. This funding will provide the opportunity to update the existing 20 community read-outs, and to expand these listening sessions to new neighborhoods.
- Neighborhood Content Creators: With the help of neighborhood partners, Choose Chicago will expand its award-winning program contracting social media-savvy neighborhood residents to produce compelling content showcasing the things to do in their neighborhoods. Travelers want authentic experiences, and working with local residents to promote their neighborhoods has been a huge success for the local businesses and attractions featured to date.
- Chicago Neighborhood Cleanup Initiative: Choose Chicago will contract with local providers of landscaping and street cleaning services in order to ensure that neighborhoods are more appealing to residents and outsiders.
- Professional Food and Small-Business Photography: Based on the guidance of our neighborhood partners, Choose Chicago will expand its efforts to provide free professional food photography across the city in order to bridge the digital divide and help small businesses market themselves.
- Chicago Neighborhood Wayfinding Program: Choose Chicago will develop a program to build and install wayfinding signage for participating neighborhoods, which is a critical tool to help direct visitors to neighborhood economic corridors and attractions.
- Digital Ads: Choose Chicago will execute a digital neighborhood tourism campaign that will target local residents, drive markets, and out-of-town visitors staying in the city. We will continue to create demographically and geographically targeted mobile banner and in-app ads for neighborhoods in Chicago using a platform that provides GPS-based visitation metrics.
- City of Stories: In partnership with World Business Chicago, Choose Chicago will produce and leverage creative assets that tell the stories of residents, business owners and other important stakeholders in longer-form storytelling to support neighborhood marketing.
- Tour Operator Training: Choose Chicago will work with a local partner to develop and execute a program to help entrepreneurs on the South and West Sides create and operate tourism companies for themselves and their communities.
”Chicago’s neighborhoods are key to our authenticity as a city for locals and visitors alike,” said Rhonda McFarland, Executive Director of the Quad Communities Development Corporation. “When done properly, neighborhood tourism can bring substantial benefits and add to the vibrancy of our neighborhoods. I want to thank Choose Chicago for their investment in a community-led approach to neighborhood tourism and their ongoing support of the Bronzeville community.”
Additionally, with this funding, World Business Chicago (WBC) will lead a business tourism marketing campaign aimed at attracting business travelers to the organization’s industryfocused conferences and events, and the neighborhood small businesses nearby. The campaign will focus on industry assets, regional wins and the positive business climate in the Chicago region.
“Chicago is a city brimming with stories – from the diverse and dynamic businesses that call it home to its rich and vibrant history. As a global business hub, Chicago has long been a destination for companies from around the world, drawn by the city’s unique blend of large corporations, entrepreneurial startups, and neighborhood businesses,” said Michael Fassnacht, President & CEO, World Business Chicago and Chief Marketing Officer, City of Chicago. “What truly sets Chicago apart is our shared commitment to diversity, inclusion, and the empowerment of women and diverse-owned businesses. These values are at the heart of our story and are what make Chicago such a special place. We are excited to share these stories with the world and showcase all that our city has to offer.”
Since its establishment in March 2021 as part of the City’s Recovery Task Force, the Choose Chicago Neighborhood Strategy team has taken a community-led approach and grown to be the largest and most comprehensive neighborhood program at any destination marketing organization in the country. Every neighborhood engagement begins with a listening sessions to help inform how Choose Chicago markets the area, its history and culture, attractions, and small businesses. Neighborhood partnerships have included: sponsorship for local organizations’ events; the Chicago Alfresco program that created outdoor areas for public enjoyment in 16 community locations; the award-winning Neighborhood Content Creator Program; a mobile data dashboard and insights to help local businesses; networking opportunities with the hospitality industry; free professional photography to small businesses in need of new digital marketing assets; and designing, printing and distributing marketing collateral such as travel brochures, fridge magnets and banners.
Most recently, the Neighborhood Strategy team sponsored the Neighborhood Stop at WBC’s Chicago Food Stop, a pop-up retail activation celebrating Chicago’s status as the capital of food innovation and culinary excellence in the first floor of the former John Hancock Building. The Neighborhood Stop offers selected small neighborhood businesses a risk-free opportunity to showcase and sell their locally made products at a central and prime retail brick-and-mortar on the Magnificent Mile.
To learn more about Choose Chicago and our neighborhood programs, go to
About Choose Chicago
Choose Chicago is the official sales and marketing organization responsible for promoting Chicago as a global visitor and meetings destination, leveraging the city’s unmatched assets to ensure the economic vitality of the city, its residents and our partner business community. Follow @choosechicago on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, TikTok and Twitter and tag #ChicaGOandKNOW. For more information, visit choosechicago.com.
About the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events
The City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) supports artists and cultural organizations, invests in the creative economy, and expands access and participation in the arts throughout Chicago’s 77 neighborhoods. As a collaborative cultural presenter, arts funder, and advocate for creative workers, our programs and events serve Chicagoans and visitors of all ages and backgrounds, downtown and in diverse communities across our city — to strengthen and celebrate Chicago. DCASE produces some of the city’s most iconic festivals, markets, events, and exhibitions at the Chicago Cultural Center, Millennium Park, and in communities across the city — serving a local and global audience of 25 million people. The Department offers cultural grants and resources, manages public art, supports TV and film production and other creative industries, and permits special events
throughout Chicago. For details, visit Chicago.gov/DCASE and stay connected via our
newsletters and social media.