The Destination

 Choose Chicago December 2018 

A note from David Whitaker, President & CEO

On behalf of all of us at Choose Chicago, our warmest Holiday wishes to you and yours. No matter how you observe, please take the time to celebrate that we can appreciate working, living, playing in and selling our amazing travel and meetings destination.

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As 2018 concludes, we will be tabulating and announcing many year-end facts and figures in the early part of the New Year. One that is of particular importance is, of course, the total visitor count.

This number is tabulated using a variety of data inputs and reported by D.K. Shifflet (our research partners for many years). A current chart is included with data now tabulated for the first 3 quarters of the year (including a very strong 3rd quarter just reported). Through nine months, total visitation is pacing up 5.5%, including an encouraging growth of 5.5% in overnight visitors and 6.1% growth in leisure visitors. In total, just over 43.1 million visitors called Chicago home in the first 3 quarters of the year including the 23.6 million overnight visitors. To supplement this, our hotel partners are reporting a 4.4% increase in demand (rooms sold) now through 11 months, so the pace is encouraging.

If we are able to maintain a growth rate exceeding 3.5% for the entire year, we feel quite confident that we will be able to surpass 57 million total visitors in 2018 and continue to maintain the steady growth. This could not come at a more important time as we will see an additional eight hotels open in 2019, adding with it 1,818 additional rooms to promote and fill (this on top of the additional 11 hotels that opened in 2018 adding 1,325 net new rooms).

Speaking of breaking records, 2018 has also been an incredible year of hosting major conventions in Chicago in partnership with McCormick Place and our partner hotels and vendors. Of the 50 largest conventions we welcomed in 2018, 31 broke all-time attendance and/or exhibitor participation records with nine breaking records in exhibit space sold. This is a tremendous credit to all in our community (proudly including our client services and convention attendance marketing teams) not to mention the important drawing power and flexibility of McCormick Place.

With 2019 now on the doorstep, we simply have to collectively double down on our efforts to promote Chicago and those we serve. We at Choose Chicago look forward to the challenge and the journey with you our partners. As always, thank you for your tremendous support. Lastly, please mark your calendar for April 18, 2019 for Choose Chicago’s Annual Meeting beginning at 3:00 pm and hosted at McCormick Place. We will use this day to look back on much that has transpired in 2018. 

Again, please accept my personal best wishes during this special season. Hope to see you at FIrst Bites Bash next month! There’s more information in the link below.

– David Whitaker

By the Numbers

Key Performance Indicators

January-November YTD, 2018 (Preliminary)

  2017 2018 % Change
Occupancy 76.3% 77.1% 1.0%
ADR $208.12 $218.22 4.9%
RevPAR $158.80 $168.25 5.9%
Room Supply 13,857,749 14,317,635 3.3%
Room Demand 10,573,551 11,038,697 4.4%

View Charts

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First Bites Bash

Tickets on sale now for First Bites Bash, Chicago Restaurant Week’s kick-off event

FBB Purchase Tickets

Join us inside the Field Museum for savory and sweet food tastings from more than 70 of Chicago's most celebrated chefs and restaurants. Toast to the city's culinary scene with our beer, wine, and spirit sponsors. 

Joe Flamm, Executive Chef of Chicago’s Michelin-starred Spiaggia and Café Spiaggia and winner of Bravo's Top Chef Season 15, will serve as Host Chef of this year's event.

Jarmel Doss, assistant bar director of The Aviary winner of the first Chicago STARS Mixology competition, will be Host Mixologist.

Early Bird Tickets: $95, available while supplies last.


Choose Chicago Welcomes 17 New Partners

Architectural/Cultural Tours
Chicago Liaison Tours
Gray Line Chicago
Dining: American
Cold Storage
Free Rein
Dining: Asian Fusion, Japanese/Sushi
Bixi Brewery
Enso Sushi and Bar
Dining: French
Le Sud
Dining: GastroTavern/Pub
Owen & Engine
Dining: Greek
Avli Taverna Restaurant

Dining: Italian
Francesca's Restaurant
La Gondola Italian Restaurant
Dining: Mediterranean
Cafe Bonhomme
Meze Mediterraneo
Dining: Mexican
Lonesome Rose
Dining: Spanish/Tapas
Black Bull
Dining: Steakhouse
Shallots Bistro
Chicago Limo

Chicago Restaurant Week Offers for Dining Partners

The 2019 Chicago Restaurant Week sponsors are proud to partner with you on the 12th annual Chicago Restaurant Week program. To celebrate the occasion, the partners below have created compelling promotions for you to enhance your dining experience during Chicago Restaurant Week.

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Joe de bière with Stella Artois

Stella Artois would like to be a part of your Restaurant Week menu and offer Chicagoans the ultimate simple pleasure -- beer. Elevate their dining experience by pairing specific dishes or the overall menu with Stella Artois. The subtle malts and hops offer a soft dry finish, making it an incredibly versatile beer for all types of food pairings.  Also available for pairings is our Stella Cidre – a dry, balanced Belgian-style cider.

As a special partner of Choose Chicago and Stella, we are offering Chicagoans who purchase the Restaurant Week menu a mini-chalice to take home (while supplies last/must be 21+). In addition, every Stella purchased in January and February provides one month of clean drinking water to help end the global water crisis. 

Contact Information:

  • Please reach out to your local wholesaler sales rep for additional information and offerings for Restaurant Week programming with Stella Artois (Lakeshore Beverage or Louis Glunz Beer, Inc.)
  • For tasting notes, pairing recommendations and Stella brand assets, please reach out to Allison Endsley, Local Stella Brand Manager at To support the global water crisis, visit

Secure Your Chicago Restaurant Week Wine Pairings with Josh Cellars

As the exclusive wine sponsor of Chicago Restaurant Week, Josh Cellars is offering participating restaurants the opportunity to create unique wine pairings for their Chicago Restaurant Week menu. 

Josh Cellars represents the best of California with bold, rich wines that are balanced and delicious. Sourced from across many great California winegrowing regions, every vintage represents a labor of love, a commitment to quality, and a very personal promise to make great wine. Josh Cellars is offering the opportunity to increase check average and drive traffic to your restaurants via "Wine Pairing Feature Offerings" during restaurant week. 

To discuss featuring a wine pairing to promote with Josh Cellars, please contact: Margaret Holekamp,  

Click here to learn more about Josh Cellars. 

Celebrate 2019 Restaurant Week with Smithfield

As the world’s largest pork processor, Smithfield can provide you with quality pork, as well as various protein products, to help create the ultimate menu for your restaurant week guests. Celebrate restaurant week with Smithfield and save BIG $$$ per case on purchases of select Smithfield fresh pork items, including Smithfield DURoC premium pork, Chop Shop and Rib Company products, with our limited time rebate offer.

To learn more about Smithfield and our rebate, contact us at 888-327-6526.  

Partnership Profile Video: Chicago’s DuSable Museum

Since 1961, Chicago’s DuSable Museum of African American History has been sharing the African American experience in the United States with people around the world. It’s recent affiliation with the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. has helped set the stage for an even more successful future for this Chicago institution.

Choose Chicago Ambassador Task Force 2019

Calling all superstars! We are currently looking for enthusiastic and dedicated hospitality professionals to be part of the 2019 Choose Chicago Ambassador Program. Ambassadors will have the opportunity to network with peers and Choose Chicago staff and serve Chicago's convention and tradeshow customers through volunteer opportunities.

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*To be considered for the 2019 Task Force, you must be a Partner of Choose Chicago We will accept a maximum of 2 people per organization

The purpose of the Ambassador Task Force is to make conference and convention attendees, exhibitors and management feel welcomed and appreciated during their visit to Chicago. This program supports the hospitality efforts coordinated by Choose Chicago and enhances Chicago's "We're Glad You're Here! ®" city-wide recognition program. The Ambassador Task Force helps add a personal touch to each customer's Chicago experience by providing face-to-face personal interaction.

Participation will provide Ambassadors with invaluable exposure within the city's hospitality community. Participants will also be able to take advantage of various programs offered by Choose Chicago throughout the year, and participate in networking events with fellow ambassadors.

Currently, the Ambassador Task Force is targeting 2019 shows to service. Each service will last approximately 1 – 2 hours, and Ambassadors are expected to fulfill a minimum of 4 hours of services over the course of the year. During select conventions and trade shows, Ambassadors will provide hospitality services, such as greeting convention attendees with refreshments at McCormick Place.

The road to stardom... If  If you’re interested in the 2019 Choose Chicago Ambassador Program, please click on the following link to fill out the application.

Chicago Ambassador Program

Please feel free to pass the application on to other colleagues who would also make ideal Ambassadors. Ambassadors will be selected from the various membership categories of Choose Chicago.

Application deadline is Wednesday, December 19, 2018! 

For Partnership inquiries:
Jordan Engerman
Director, Partnerships
For Ambassador Program inquiries:
Allison Ristau
Client Services Coordinator

Meetings and Conventions


Left to right in the photo of RSNA staff on the RSNA letters: John Jaworski Christina Weres Marissa Ritter Lisa Jennings Andrea Kielkiewicz Sandy Darland Amanda Ethier Kim Christianson Janet Cooper Allison Lewis Kara Barker Kristin Corbett Sherri Gendel Jorie Dydo Steve Drew

Chicago Concierge was established to assist conventioneers in navigating hundreds of dining, private event, tours, shopping, and entertainment options throughout the city of Chicago. They work directly with show managers to design services that meet the needs of convention attendees. Chicago Concierge then connects inbound visitors directly with local business partners by providing digital resources and on-site concierge services.

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This program was originally developed in 2011 for the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA). With an attendee base of over 50,000 at the RSNA Annual Meeting, it’s important to provide a variety of easily accessible dining, entertainment, and shopping options. 

“Chicago Concierge stepped in to offer local expertise and professionalism that no other service can match. They have since become an indispensable part of our repertoire that our guests continue to utilize year after year”
— Marissa Ritter, CMP Assistant Director, Meetings & Convention Services

In 2016, a partnership with Choose Chicago was formed to offer this as a complementary service to all trade shows, conventions, and events held at McCormick Place.

“Our clients rave about Chicago Concierge and the services that they offer. No other city is providing this level of thoughtful service for its convention delegates.”
— Rose Horcher, Vice President, Client Services, Choose Chicago

In 2018, Chicago Concierge has provided services for 46 conventions and events, with a total attendance exceeding 1.2 million attendees. The results: Over 14,000 reservations booked, which is a 10% increase over 2017 totals.

For more information on programs and services that Chicago Concierge provides, please visit, contact at or call 630-740-5137.


Roz Stuttley, Director, Client Services has been chosen as the 2019 Event Service Professional Association (ESPA) and Successful Meetings’ Convention Service Manager of the Year!

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Roz Stuttley
Roz Stuttley, Director, Client Services

Roz will be presented her award at ESPA’s 2019 Convention, January 11 – 13, in Charlotte, North Carolina.  One of our clients from the Modern Language Association nominated Roz for her outstanding work on the MLA convention.

According to ESPA’s website: 

Successful Meetings’ and ESPA Convention Services Manager of the Year award winners have demonstrated to the most demanding critics in the business – meeting planners – their ability to provide the highest level of service. In the words of Successful Meetings Editor-in-Chief Vincent Alonzo, “There’s an army of stakeholders that has to employ vision, effort, and creativity to ensure an event is executed as planned. Some of the most important, and often unsung, heroes in that army are the convention services managers. So here is an opportunity to shine a light on them.”

Congratulations Roz, and thank you for your professionalism, commitment to the success of our clients, passion for Chicago, serving as a positive role model on our team and for helping make Chicago shine! We are all proud of you.

Global Development

Promoting Chicago in Australia and New Zealand

Choose Kiwis

November 30th marked an exciting day for Chicago, as we welcomed Air New Zealand’s inaugural flight for our new direct route between Auckland and Chicago O’Hare International Airport. The non-stop flight departs three times a week and flying time is just over 15 hours.

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Choose Chicago’s Global Development team was proactive this year in prepping for the flight launch. We quickly learned the market is eager to explore a new destination and unfamiliar with all Chicago has to offer. The Global Development team is continuing to build a solid foundation in both key and new incoming tourism markets for Chicago by educating travel resellers to better sell the destination.

In mid-February, the team participated in Visit USA’s Australia Sales Mission. Attending this mission helped build a foundation for Chicago’s brand and was Chicago’s first official destination presence in a new international market. In Australia, we had a Choose Chicago table showcasing Chicago, as well as a three-minute stage presentation. Each day consisted of two-hour tableside agent training followed by a three-minute Chicago destination training during dinner. Additionally, B2B appointments and Media appointments were conducted to maximize our time in-market. Following the show, we traveled to Christchurch and Auckland to educate New Zealand travel agents on Chicago. 

In April, we hosted a webinar for Helloworld Travel, our first webinar for the New Zealand market. We also attended the Visit USA Australia reception & presentation at IPW in Denver May 19th. Over 100 travel trade & media were in attendance. In August, the Global Development team hosted Air New Zealand & Brand USA’s Australia and New Zealand Mega FAM consisting of ten travel agents, sampling some of the best experiences the city has to offer. These initiatives helped give us a head start in promoting the destination, leading up to the flight launch.

The month of November was an extremely productive month in promoting Chicago to the Australian and New Zealand market. Choose Chicago’s Global Development team conducted five in-market trainings in collaboration with Chicago Department of Aviation. The trainings were held in Sydney, Melbourne, Auckland, Christchurch, & Wellington, resulting in an impressive 356 agents trained. Choose Chicago showcased the Chicago O’Hare Airport as the most convenient gateway to the U.S. through the Chicago Department of Aviation’s presentation, highlighting both O’Hare International Airport and Midway International Airport as close to the city center. Air New Zealand discussed their launch of the new direct flight from Auckland to Chicago. Choose Chicago partnered with Canuckiwi to present a destination presentation, informing agents on all Chicago has to offer as a leisure destination.

We welcomed the inaugural Air New Zealand flight on November 30th kicking off a FAM in collaboration with Brand USA. We welcomed First Travel Group, World Travellers, House of Travel Product, and Flight Centre. We carefully crafted a full itinerary for these product managers and key decision makers to experience first-hand all Chicago has to offer as a leisure destination, by showcasing some of our top attractions and tours. This equips the agents to better sell Chicago, especially as interest rises thanks to this new flight route. During this FAM we hosted a mini trade show at the Sheraton Grand Chicago to offer some of our partners the opportunity to meet with these agents one-on-one to promote their products.

Chicago Sports

Sports Event Calendar

Happy Holidays from CSC

In 2018, CSC hosted 12 events — from annual staples like the Nike Tournament of Champions and AVP Gold Series to NCAA Men’s Gymnastics Championships, it was another great year!

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In 2018, CSC hosted 12 events — from annual staples like the Nike Tournament of Champions and AVP Gold Series to NCAA Men’s Gymnastics Championships, it was another great year! 

Chicago shined as the first U.S. city to host the highly anticipated Laver Cup. Fans traveled from 50+ countries, generating $84 million in economic impact. The year concluded with the 2018 Rugby Weekend at Soldier Field — a historic tripleheader with teams from New Zealand, Ireland, Italy and USA. 

Bring on 2019! Kicking off the year with the United Soccer Coaches Convention in January, followed by the return of the Big Ten Men’s Basketball Tournament to the United Center in March. The CONCACAF Gold Cup Final comes to Soldier Field in July, and so much more! 

We’re thankful for the opportunity to work with so many great people and organizations. And we’re grateful to have the support of our amazing corporate partners. Check out the 2019 calendar, and best wishes to you this holiday season!

Media Relations


Choose Chicago’s Media Relations team hosted and/or supported more than 54 members of the media on individual media visits to Chicago in October 2018. The team traveled to New York City to receive Conde Nast Traveler’s Readers’ Choice Award for Best Big City in the U.S (second year in a row!).

The media coverage generated this month resulted in approximately $5 million in media value. A sampling of stories published in October 2018 includes:


​For a complete listing of everything that's happening, see the Choose Chicago Events Calendar


We are looking for hospitality professionals for the 2019 Choose Chicago Ambassador Program.

Apply Now