The Destination

 Choose Chicago January 2019 

A note from David Whitaker, President & CEO

Welcome to 2019! As hopefully many of you read or heard, recently Mayor Emanuel announced top line visitor data for 2018 – Chicago is projected to have welcomed 57.6 million visitors this past year. This represents a 4.3% increase over the prior year and of course, a new record.

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It’s not only encouraging to see growth, but to see the pace of growth increase. The previous year, visitor volume grew 2.7%, so to see the pace improve is a reflection of the momentum that Chicago is enjoying and the growing impact the tourism, meetings and events industry generate in our community.
Growth was also achieved in the convention sales results in 2018 as Choose Chicago and our incredible partners at McCormick Place along with participating host hotels announced that 60 new major conventions have committed to meet in Chicago in future years. That’s in addition to confirming 2,301 smaller “self-contained in hotel” future meetings. In all, these bookings represent more than 2.6 million future room-nights, which are projected to be generated from an additional 4 million delegates. These are future delegates who will fully experience our city and our partners as well as generate significant economic impact for our community.
The projected growth in 2018 was also reflected in major meetings and trade shows hosted in Chicago. Of the 50 largest events convening at McCormick Place in 2018, 40% (20 conventions/shows) broke either attendance or exhibitor participation records, with 15 of these meetings setting new all-time attendance records, including 11 setting new exhibition-space sales records and 8 that reported record-breaking numbers of exhibitors.
Of the 57.6 million visitors projected for 2018, over 55% are overnight visitors. It’s also encouraging to see that hotel performance data, released by Smith Travel Research (the majority of our hotel partners participate in this reporting mechanism), reflect a similar strong uptick in growth with room demand (Rooms Consumed) up 4.3% for the 2018 calendar year. The overall annual occupancy rate in 2018 was 75.4%. The growth in demand helped fuel an increase in the average daily room rate of 4.6%, resulting in a compounded growth of 9.1% in hotel revenue. With this success and growth, Chicago hotels generated a record $140 million in city/county hotel tax revenues, resulting in an additional $11.7 million generated in tax collections to support local city/county services. Speaking of economic impact – this same growth and success generated by our hotel partners generated an additional $12.9 million in state hotels taxes to support state programs and services.
There was an important increase in international travelers to Chicago in 2018. Airline Passenger Information System (APIS) data collected from arriving international non-stop flights to Chicago for the first 11 months of the year show an increase of 3.9%. This increase was led by growth in the number of passport holders from Brazil (up 16.2%), United Kingdom (up 14.1%), Italy (up 10.9%), South Korea (up 9.2%), Mexico (up 7.4%), Canada (up 2.5%) and China (up 2.1%). While every international passport holder landing in Chicago from one of these direct flights is Chicago-bound – a significant majority are coupled with additional international arrivals landing via connecting flights from places like New York, Miami, Houston, LA or San Francisco. So to see a growth of 3.9% is encouraging and consistent with other projected trends. It was also good to see that through 11 months, there is growth in nine of our 14 top international markets. At this same time a year ago, there were declines in seven of the 14.
Growth fuels growth, as eight new hotels opened in Chicago in 2018 and another eight new hotels are scheduled to open in 2019. So we simply have to keep growing the pie – but of course, this means more jobs, more sales and occupancy taxes generated and more amazing visitor stories waiting to be told in and about Chicago.
Thank you to each of our incredible partners. Choose Chicago proudly ended our year with 1,552 partner members – a new record. Thanks to their and your support – member dues surpassed the budgeted goal of $2 million ($2,042,213 in dues to be exact). Thanks to our many great corporate and strategic sponsors, we achieved the annual goal and surpassed $1.2 million. Our great sponsors and partners that contribute to and help make up the Chicago Sports Commission also helped the Commission exceed its $500,000 goal. This private revenue coupled with the incredible financial support Choose Chicago receives from the State of Illinois, the city of Chicago, the city’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, the Chicago Department of Aviation and MPEA/McCormick Place provided Choose Chicago with the financial resources to help achieve these great results.
Thank you again for all you and your colleagues have done to support and collaborate with Choose Chicago. Here’s to another successful year ahead – it’s never been more important and impactful.

Speaking of convening, many of you have already registered to participate in the upcoming Illinois Governor’s Conference on Travel & Tourism (February 4-6) hosted at Chicago’s Palmer House Hilton.

If you or your colleagues have not yet done so, I encourage you to consider participating especially in this transitional year. Registration Link below:

Register Now

– David Whitaker

By the Numbers

Key Performance Indicators

January-December YTD 2018 

  2017 % Change 2018 % Change
Occupancy 74.4% -0.5% 75.4% 0.8%
ADR $203.77 -1.9% $212.97 4.5%
RevPAR $152.27 -2.4% $160.47 5.4%
Room Supply 15,172,273 3.6% 15,699,135 3.5%
Room Demand 11,337,701 3.1% 11,829,333 4.3%


Choose Chicago Welcomes 16 New Partners

Special Olympics Illinois
The LCP Group

Audio/Visual, Photography & Videography
CLUTCH Audio Visual, Inc
Luxe Productions

Bed & Breakfasts / Inns
Gateway Inn

Concierge Services
Perfecting Transportation Corp.

Dining: American
Longman & Eagle
Onward Chicago

Dining: American Contemporary

Purchase Your Tickets to First Bites Bash 2019!

Limited Quantity Available

FBB Purchase Tickets

Join us for the official kick-off event to Chicago Restaurant Week on Thursday, January 24 at the Field Museum. Indulge in sweet and savory tastings from more than 70 of your favorite Chicago Chefs. 

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First Bites Bash is the official kick-off event for the 12th annual Chicago Restaurant Week, produced by Choose Chicago. 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.

He’ll be joined by Host Mixologist Jarmel Doss, assistant bar director of The Aviary and winner of the first Chicago STARS Mixology competition.

This year’s event will benefit Pilot Light, a local non-profit that helps kids make healthier choices through food education.
Join Stella Artois at TAO for a First Bites Bash After Party!

Attending First Bites Bash? Keep the party going at TAO with exclusive entertainment and specials provided by Stella Artois. Your First Bites Bash wristband will grant you access to TAO to kick off Chicago Restaurant Week. | March 18-20 | Marriott Marquis Chicago


Attend IEG’s 36th Annual Conference and join more than 1,200 of the biggest brands, smartest rightsholders and content and media leaders from around the globe. Your participation at this event will inspire and enable you to see things differently while emboldening you to challenge the norms that are boxing in your business. Through the thought leadership we provide and the people you’ll meet – IEGWorld2019 can change your world.

Partner Profile Video: Chicago’s American Writers Museum

The United States was founded upon documents famous for both content and style.  Chicago’s American Writers Museum honors both as the first national museum in the United States dedicated to honoring American writers and exploring their influence on the nation’s history, identity and culture.

Meetings and Conventions

2018 Record-Breaking Conventions/Events in Chicago

At a glance percentage calculations for record-breaking conventions.

(50) 2018 conventions met the 2,000 PRN+ criteria:

  • 40% of the 2,000 PRN+ 2018 conventions broke some sort of record = 20 conventions
  • 30% of the 2,000 PRN+ 2018 conventions broke attend records =  15 conventions
  • 22% of the 2,000 PRN+ 2018 conventions broke exhibit space sales records =  11  conventions
  • 16% of the 2,000 PRN+ 2018 conventions had record-breaking number of exhibitors =  8  conventions

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2,000PRN or higher record-breaking conventions

  1. Fellow of Catholic University Student (FOCUS)
    Event:  SLS18 presented by FOCUS
    ​January 2 – 7, 2018 – McCormick Place West
    • Record-breaking attendance: 8,229.  SLS18 had more than twice as many attendees as SLS16.  (SLS is held every other year)
  2. International Exposition Company - AHR Expo
    January 22 – 24, 2018 – McCormick Place
    • Record-breaking attendance:  up 5% (68,615)
    • Record-breaking exhibit space: up nearly 7%
    • Record-breaking number of exhibiting companies: up nearly 2%
    • Record-breaking number of participating countries (169) 
  3. American Association for Cancer Research
    AACR Annual Meeting 2018
    ​April 14-18, 2018
    • Record-breaking Attendance:  22,600
  4. LIGHTFAIR International
    LIGHTFAIR International 2018
    ​May 6 – 10, 2018
    • Record-breaking exhibit space sold
    • 85 countries represented
  5. American Wind Energy Association WINDPOWER 2018
    ​May 7 – 19, 2018
    • Record-breaking number of exhibitors
  6. National Restaurant Association
    National Restaurant Show
    ​May 22 – 24, 2018
    • Record exhibit space sold for the 4th year in a row
  7. National Confectioners Association – NCA 2018 Sweets & Snacks Expo
    May 22 – 24, 2018
    • Record- breaking attendance: 18,298
    • Exhibit space sold out – record exhibit space sold
  8. American Society of Clinical Oncology
    54th ASCO Annual Meeting
    ​June 1 – 5, 2018
    • Record-breaking attendance: 40,700
      • Over 40,000 for the first time
    • Sold out exhibit floor with waitlist
    • Record=breaking fundraiser for the Conquer Cancer Foundation (over $650,000)
    • 45% international
  9. NeoCon
    ​June 11 – 13, 2018
    • Record-breaking attendance of over 50,000 – up 5% over 2017
    • 50th Anniversary of NeoCon
  10. Society for Human Resource Management – SHRM 2018 Annual Conference & Exposition
    ​June 17 - 20, 2018
    • Record-breaking attendance: 23,760
    • Record exhibit space sold; 710 exhibitors, exhibit space sold out
  11. International Society for Technology in Education – ISTE’s Annual Conference & Expo
    ​June 24 – 27, 2018
    • Record-breaking attendance:  24,000
    • 25% increase over 2017
    • Record-breaking number of exhibitors
  12. Alzheimer’s Association – 2018 International Conference
    July 21 – 26, 2018
    EEI: $12,162,338.15
    ​Final attendance:  5,912
    • Record-breaking attendance
    • 40% international attendance
    • Record-breaking number of exhibiting companies
    • Record-breaking exhibit space sold
  13. American Association for Clinical Chemistry – 2018 AACC Annual Meeting & Clinical Lab Expo
    July 29 – August 2, 2018
    EEI: $38,944.14
    ​Final attendance:  20,000
    • 30% international
    • Record number of exhibiting companies
    • Record exhibit space used
  14. Academy of Management – 2018 Annual Meeting
    August 8 – 10, 2018
    EEI: $22,317,091
    ​Final attendance: 11,258
    • Record-breaking attendance
  15. American Society of Association Executives – ASAE 2018 Annual Meeting & Exposition
    August 18 – 21, 2018
    EEI:  $16,893,471
    ​Final attendance:  6,092
    • Record-breaking attendance (highest since 2007 event, also held in Chicago)
    • Record-breaking funds raised for to local charities: $71,000 for the  Chicago Food Depository, and Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly (double the amount raised for charities in Toronto/2017)
  16. AMT – The Association for Manufacturing Technology – IMTS 2018 Industry & Technology      Conference
    September 10 – 15, 2018
    EEI:  $205,910,874
    ​Final attendance:  129,415
    • Record-breaking attendance: 9.4% increase in attendance over 2016 which was also record-breaking
    • IMTS is held every two years, always in Chicago
    • Record-breaking exhibit space sold:  1,424,232 sq. ft. (previous record 1,415,848 sq. ft.)
    • Record-breaking number of exhibiting companies:  2,563 exhibiting companies. (previous record 2,407 exhibiting companies)
  17. PMMI - The Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies – PACK EXPO International and Healthcare Packaging EXPO 2018
    October 14 – 17, 2018
    EEI: $121,442,048
    ​Estimated attendance:  70,247
    • Record-breaking exhibit space sold – over 1,250,000 sq. ft.
    • Record-breaking number of exhibiting companies – 2,500
  18. Association for Financial Professionals – AFP 218 Conference
    November 4 – 6, 2018
    EE:  $17,198,514
    ​Final attendance:  6,800
    • Record-breaking attendance
    • Record-breaking exhibit space sold - over 250 exhibitors
    • Record-breaking number of exhibitors
  19. The Midwest Clinic – 2018 An International Band and Orchestra Conference
    December 19 – 21, 2019
    EEI:  20,356,218
    ​Final attendance: over 18,000
    • Record-breaking attendance
    • Record-breaking exhibit space sold
  20. Muslim American Society – 2018 MAS Annual National Convention
    December 27 – 29, 2018
    EEI:  $12,883,447
    ​Final attendance:  21,133
    • Record-breaking attendance, a nearly 20% increase over 2017

Note: The public shows listed below meet the 2,000 PRN and above criteria, but are not included in the conventions tallied above.

  • NIKE Tournament of Champions 2018
  • Bank of America Chicago Marathon and Abbott Health & Fitness 2018
  • adidas Windy City National Qualifier 2018
  • 2018 America's Beauty Show
  • Tony Robbins UPW 2018

NOTE: Five (5) conventions under 2,000 PRN also enjoyed record-breaking attendance.

Under 2,000 PRN Record-breaking conventions

  1. National Association of School Psychologists – NASP 49th Annual Convention
    ​February 13 – 16, 2018 – Hyatt Regency Chicago
    • Record-breaking attendance: 6,513
      • Highest attendance in NASP’s 50-year history
    • Record-breaking number of exhibits
  2. Society of Surgical Oncology
    SSO 2018 Cancer Symposium
    ​March 21-24, 2018 – Lakeside Center at McCormick Place
    • Record-breaking attendance: 1,894
  3. Reed Exhibitions – Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo (C2E2) 2018
    ​April 6 – 8, 2018
    • Record-breaking attendance: 82,500
  4. American Medical Association – Annual House of Delegates
    June 9 – 13, 2018
    ​EEI:  $8,332,000
    • Record-breaking attendance:  2,947
  5. Case Management Society of America – CMSA 2018 Annual Conference & Expo
    ​June 21 – 23, 2018
    • Record-breaking attendance: 1,892

Cultural Tourism & Visitor Services

Celebrate Chinese New Year

Lantern Procession

The Year of the Pig

Celebrate Chinese New Year in Chicago! The city will be ringing in the Year of the Pig from Feb. 4 - 17 with a variety of cultural, musical and culinary events.

One of the most anticipated celebrations of the year, Chinese New Year in Chicago will highlight the rich culture and heritage of China and the strong bond that exists between our cultures.

Visit  for a full listing of all Chinese New Year activities in the city. 

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The signature event of the Chinese New Year Celebration features two performance troupes from China. 

Celebrate the Chinese New Year at Symphony Center's fifth annual concert, featuring the internationally renowned China National Peking Opera Company and the spectacular Hubei Chime Bells National Chinese Orchestra.

With special appearances by Peking opera superstars Yu Kuizhi and Li Shengsu, the China National Peking Opera Company presents a dazzling combination of vocal artistry, costumes and acrobatics in three classic scenes. Opening the concert is the Hubei Chime Bells National Chinese Orchestra, honoring centuries-old musical traditions performed on exact replicas of the ancient Imperial Bells of China.


Global Development

2018 Department Highlights

2018 Department Highlights

Chicago Sports Commision

Happy New Year from CSC!

The year has gotten off to a quick start, with the 2019 United Soccer Coaches Convention just wrapping up last week at McCormick Place. United Soccer Coaches is the largest gathering of soccer in North America, and 2019 was the first year the convention has come to Chicago.

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CSC hosted the 2019 Winter Volleyball Championships at McCormick Place January 19-21, and will welcome the 2019 Chicago Style Women’s Gymnastics Meet back to Navy Pier February 8-10. Basketball will take over the city in March, with the 2019 BIG EAST Women’s Basketball Tournament March 9-12 at Wintrust Arena, the 2019 Big Ten Men’s Basketball Tournament March 13-17 at the United Center, and the 2019 NCAA DI Women’s Basketball - Chicago Regional March 30 - April 1 at Wintrust Arena. 

Check out the rest of the 2019 event schedule, and stay up to date by following us on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook at @ChiSportsComm. We hope to see you at some of our events in 2019!

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

Purchase Your Tickets to First Bites Bash 2019!

Join us for the official kick-off event to Chicago Restaurant Week on Thursday, January 24.



The city will be ringing in the Year of the Pig from Feb. 4 - 17