The Destination

Choose Chicago May 2018


Annual Meeting - Rahm Emanuel

I wanted to again thank each of you and your colleagues who were able to join us for Choose Chicago’s Annual Meeting held on April 12th. I especially want to thank our great partners who helped make the day and event so successful – MPEA, SMG/McCormick Place, Wintrust Arena, SAVOR and Freeman Audio Visual. I also want to thank the leaders and coalition who again helped organize the impactful Industry Xchange as part of Global Meetings Industry Day held in conjunction with the annual meeting.

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Later in this newsletter, you will find easy reference to the 2017 Choose Chicago Annual Report (spotlighted at the meeting) as well as many of the 2018 Key Priorities Choose Chicago has set forth to continue to advance during the balance of this year.

Annual Meeting - JoeA special highlight of the Annual Meeting was the recipient of this year’s Tourism Champion Award – the recently named Top Chef of the successful television series bearing the same name – Chicago’s own (and Café Spiaggia’s own) Executive Chef, Joe Flamm. Congratulations again Joe and thank you for all you have done and continue to do.

Later in this newsletter, we share updates on recent hotel data reported by Smith Travel Research, now updated through April (please see “By the Numbers” contained within). Continuing to build upon the positive momentum experienced in the first quarter of the year, the “year to date” results reflect Hotel Room Demand up 8.8% for the first four months of the year helping support growth in Hotel Occupancy of 4.1% and a Revenue Per Available growth of 6.7%.

Clearly, the upcoming months will be critical to see continued growth and we, of course, will monitor this closely.

With the summer now just months away, things really begin to heat up as we look to host and celebrate some of Chicago’s most impactful meetings, festivals, performances and traditions.

As always, thank you for your continued cooperation and support.

David Whitaker
President & CEO
Choose Chicago

By the Numbers

Key Performance Indicators

April, 2018 (Preliminary)

  2017 2018 % Change
Occupancy 77.6% 77.3% 1.0%
ADR $190.28 $200.72 5.5%
RevPAR $147.57 $157.19 6.5%
Rooms Supply 1,221,660 1,273,092 4.2%
Room Demand 947,436 997,028 5.2%

January-April YTD, 2018 (Preliminary)

  2017 2018 % Change
Occupancy 62.8% 65.4% 4.1%
ADR $159.91 $163.79 2.4%
RevPAR $100.45 $107.13 6.7%
Rooms Supply 4,870,471 5,090,867 4.2%
Room Demand 3,059,260 3,329,924 8.8%

Annual Meeting Recap

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Thank you Meeting Attendees!

It was a pleasure to see you all at the Annual Meeting, and to have the opportunity to share all our news and achievements. Take a look at our photo gallery and review Choose Chicago's 2018 Key Objectives.

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Choose Chicago 2018 Key Objectives

Convention Sales

  • 36 Month (Short-Term) Focus
    • 5% Growth in Room Nights Booked (January 2018December 2020)
  • 2019 Priority Year
    • Produce Additional 200,000 Room Nights in 2019
  • Continue New Client/Customer Focus
    • In 2017, 36% of Meetings Hosted First Time in Chicago or First Time in 10 Years
  • Increase Lead Volume by 15%
    • 5,538 Leads Produced for Partners in 2017
  • Increase Lead Volume by 15%
    • 5,538 Leads Produced for Partners
    • Goal for 2018 – 6,400 Leads
  • Intermediary Initiative
    • 15% Year Over Year Growth in Bookings
  • Confirm 1,630,000 Future City-Wide Room Nights
    • Over 55 Future Major Meetings
  • Confirm 1,020,000 Future In-House Room Nights
    • Over 2,400 Future In-Hotel Meetings
  • Solidify Success for Major Clients and Partners
    • Provide Award Winning Client Services to 41 City-Wide Conventions in 2018 (up from 36 in 2017)

Consumer Marketing

  • Fully Integrated Content Strategy Aligned Along 9 Key Platforms
  • Sustain Regional Programs Year-Round
    • Welcome Home Campaign Reached 6.5 Million Regional Households in 2017
  • Expand National “Urban Center” Outreach/Engagement
    • 8.1 Million National Households Reached for the First Time in 2017 (Primarily Targeting Major US Cities)
  • Expand International Engagement (11 Key Markets)
    • International Visitors to Website Increased 114%
  • Continue to Target “High Value” Customers
    • National US Overnight Visitors Average Length of Stay
      • 3.3 Nights
    • Regional Overnight Visitor Average Length of Stay
      • 2.0 Nights
    • International Visitors Stay Twice As Long and Spend Twice As Much

Cultural Tourism

  • Strengthen Our Partnerships
  • Expand and Leverage Our Neighborhoods
  • Diversity of Chicago = Diversity of Our Guests

Media Relations

  • Continue Expansion of Awareness and Coverage
    • 3,400 Published Articles
    • 6 Billion Total Circulation
    • Earned Media Value:
      • 2016 - $9.6 Million
      • 2017 - $37.3 Million
  • Collaborate with Partners to Pitch and Host Media Visits to Chicago
    • 350 Hosted Media in 2017 (75 Hosted in 2016)
  • Market Specific Press Tours in Chicago
    • 25 Hosted in 2017
  • In-Market Media Events
    • 10 Activations in 2017

Chicago Sports Commission

  • Win Future Major, High-Profile Sporting Events that Positively Impact Chicago
  • Successfully Host the 11 Sports Events in CSC’s 2018 Line Up
  • Leverage the Star Power of the Laver Cup to Generate more International awareness and interest in Chicago
  • Solidify Chicago as #1 U.S. Destination for International Rugby Matches
  • Create New Revenue Streams and Maintain Engagement with and Support of CSC Board

Global Development

  • Complete Schedule of International Trade Shows
    • 12 in 2017 Completing 386 Client Appointments/Presentations
    • 13 Planned in 2018
  • Organize and Host Key Trade/Agent/Buyer FAMs to Chicago
    • 30 FAMs Hosted in 2017 Welcoming 374 Agents/Buyers from 14 Countries
  • Conduct Sales Missions
    • 20 Sales Missions Conducted in 2017 Interacting with 1,839 Agents/Clients in 10 Countries
  • Continue In-Market Agent/Product Training
    • Completed 19 Training Seminars in 2017 Interacting with 1,161 Agents as Well as Training Another 633 Agents World-Wide

Public Policy

  • Strengthen and Expand Government and Civic Partnerships
  • Act as a Liaison and Build Alliances Among all Sectors of the Industry
  • Continue to be a Resource for Partners
  • Continue to Educate and Advocate on the Impact and
  • Reach of the Visitor Economy

The new annual report is available online

Annual ReportCheck out media awards and recognitions, record-setting stats, Welcome Home marketing campaign highlights, and more.

See it Now

Save the Date

Friday Night Flights Kickoff Event

June 15, 2018, 6-9pm - Gallagher Way, 3637 N Clark Street
Produced by the Illinois Craft Brewers Guild in partnership with Choose Chicago, experience Chicago’s craft beer scene through a bi-monthly tasting event showcasing neighborhood breweries featuring 25+ breweries across the city. 


Tuesdays from June 5 to Aug. 21 (6:30pm) 
Films of the "big screen" take to Millennium Park where a state-of-the-art, 40-foot LED screen will showcase both classics and new favorites all summer long.


Wednesday, June 6, 2018 (8 - 10am) - Chicago History Museum 
Learn about the top tourism developments in 2018 and beyond that will directly shape and impact the visitor experience in Chicago. From the Blues Experience Museum and new Chicago Architecture Center to the Odyssey Chicago River and Museum of Science and Industry’s “Science of Pixar Exhibit”, we’ve assembled some of Chicago’s most passionate storytellers to share these exciting updates in a very personal way. 

Global Development

Global Development

Choose Chicago's Global Development team attended Swanson’s Travel USA Travel Fair in Osby, Sweden on March 3, 2018. Over 1,000 Swedish consumers that book USA holidays attended this fair. Our team educated these Swedish holiday-goers on Chicago as a destination & encouraged consumers to book a trip to Chicago.

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Following Sweden, our team traveled to Copenhagen, Denmark from March 4-5 for the Federation of Danish Motorists USA Travel Event, as well as Discover America Denmark USA Travel Show. Over 4,000 Danish Consumers attended. Our team met with Danish, Swedish and Norwegian tour operators and travel agents to encourage them to carry Chicago product. The Federation of Danish Motorists sends over 25,000 travelers to the USA every year.

In order to support the new American Airlines flight from Venice to Chicago, which starts May 2018, the Global Development team attended Visit USA Italy Showcase in Venice from March 3-6. Twenty-two tour operators, 42 travel agents & 11 media attended. Choose Chicago conducted one on one appointments with key Media & Travel Trade to enhance Chicago’s presence in Italy.

From March 7-11 the Global Development team held a maximum number of appointments with European Travel Trade and Consumers at ITB Berlin. We worked with European tour operators, online travel agencies, airlines, travel agencies and consumers about how we can better promote Chicago from a leisure perspective. Additionally, our team collaborated with the Chicago Fire to promote a trip to Chicago with USA-Reisen, a tour operator in Germany. This promotion resulted in a 17,060 reach on their Facebook Campaign, an e-blast distributed to 60,000 subscribers, 11 room nights booked & three attraction tickets sold.

For the first time, the Global Development team presented on stage at Active America China in Atlanta, Georgia to all delegates. Focusing on China’s market, Choose Chicago attended to educate Chinese tour operators and receptives about Chicago as a destination for their clients.

Sales Missions & Trainings

Choose Chicago marked our first official Chicago destination presence in New Zealand following the Visit USA Australia Sales Mission from February 26-27. Our team built a foundation to expand into a new international market. We traveled to Christchurch and Auckland, and each day consisted of two-hour tableside free flow agent training, followed by a 3-minute Chicago destination training during dinner.

In collaboration with United Airlines, the Global Development team traveled to Frankfurt, Rome, Dublin and London for our European Sales Mission from March 13-16. The objective of this mission was to train Travel Trade in Germany, Italy, Ireland & UK on Chicago & promote the direct flights to Chicago with airline partners. Over 204 agents were trained on Chicago as a destination throughout this mission.

On March 14, Global Development trained 19 travel trade professionals based in Jaipur during Brand USA’s Annual Discover USA Educational Seminar. Jaipur is the capital and the largest city of the Indian state of Rajasthan in Northern India.  Choose Chicago provided information on a selection of options for FIT, GIT & MICE travelers – from exciting and unique attractions to soft adventure activities all offering a wide scope of exclusive experiences appropriate for the Jaipur’s market. This seminar presented an excellent opportunity to interact with Jaipur’s travel trade, comprehend the trends, discuss their requirement and assist them in providing the required information to their customers.

Throughout March, Choose Chicago’s Global Development team hosted three Chicago destination trainings in Mexico. On March 16th, we hosted a breakfast seminar in Cancun with Best Day Travel for 60 agents, on how to better sell Chicago as a leisure destination and increase visitation. Additionally, we conducted a destination training with Gran Plan & AeroMEXICO in Mexico City & Col, Valle Sur for 225 Mexican Travel Trade Professionals.

From March 18-24, Global Development reached Beijing, Guangzhou, Chengdu, & Shanghai during our Brand USA China Sales Mission. This mission presented a Travel Trade update on Chicago and provided an opportunity to interact with Chinese Travel Trade. The target market of this mission was Chinese Group Travel, FIT & Customized Groups, with 115 appointments held.

Client Services

First Quarter Convention Successes

Choose Chicago’s Client Services Team serves as main liaison between booked convention business and the City.  The CS team begins working with clients 12 - 24 months in advance, coordinating and facilitating hotel and venue site visits, promo trips, and more.

The first quarter of 2018 has seen a continuation of record-breaking conventions at McCormick Place:

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2018 Record-Breaking Conventions/Events in Chicago – As of 4/30/18

Fellow of Catholic University Student (FOCUS)

Event:  SLS18 presented by FOCUS  Jan 2 – 7, 2018 – McCormick Place 

  • Record-breaking attendance of 8,229.  SLS18 had more than twice as many attendees as SLS16.  (SLS is held every other year.)

International Exposition Company

Event: AHR Expo - Jan. 22 – 24, 2018 – McCormick Place

  • Total attendance:  72,075   - up 5%  (3,460) from 2017 record in Las Vegas. This represents records for both visitor attendance and exhibitor personnel.
  • NSF: 534,080   - up nearly 7%  (33,921) from 2017 record in Las Vegas
  • Exhibiting companies: 2,155  - up nearly 2% from 2015 record in Chicago
  • Number of countries represented by visitors: 169  up 4 countries from 2017 record in Las Vegas

Society of Surgical Oncology

Event: SSO 2018 Cancer Symposium March 21-24, 2018 – McCormick Place 

  • Record-breaking attendance: 1,800+ 

American Association for Cancer Research

AACR Annual Meeting 2018 April 14-18, 2018 - McCormick Place

  • Record Breaking Attendance
  • 22,527 attendees as of 4/17/18 (up 3%)
  • Exhibitor participation increased from 498 to 560 (111,000 sq. ft. vs 98,000 last year)


APRIL 2018 Site Visits conducted by the Client Services Team:



SHRM April CEO Site Visit



AWEA final WP18 site visit



American Society of Clinical Oncology Special Events Site



National Apartment Association



Tessitura 2019 Site



ASIS International Site Visit



ASIS 2019 International Annual Seminar & Exhibits Site Visit



Union of Reform Judaism



IMTS TV Around Chicago Filming



PRINT 18 Site Visit



Institute of Food Technologists Building Site Visit



ASCO/SPARGO Individual Hotel PreCon/All Hotel PreCon



GBTA 2019 Site Visit



American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy



ISTE 2018 - April/May Site Visit



IACP Hotel Site



The CS team travels to a client’s convention one year out to promote Chicago for the following year.  April 2018 Prom Trips conducted by the Client Services team include:



Cincinnati, OH



NCEA 2019 Convention & Exposition



Denver, CO



Institute of Electrical & Electronic Engineers - 2020 IEEE PES Transmission & Distribution Conference & Expo



Denver, CO




Meetings & Conventions/Sales

Long-Term ASCO Commitment (2026 – 2030)

Choose Chicago and McCormick Place are pleased to announce the American Society for Clinical Oncology (ASCO) has signed a multi-year agreement through 2030.

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The ASCO Annual Meeting is the largest annual room-night producing account for Chicago, generating more than 140,000 room nights each year.  The attendance, exhibits and room nights have consistently grown by 2%-5% every year they have been in Chicago.  The economic impact to the city of Chicago, our hotels, restaurants etc., exceeds $130 million annually.  This makes ASCO a truly one-of-a-kind, June opportunity that has yet to be matched.

Additionally, since 2003, attendance at this show has grown 49% from 26,400 to 39,389 in 2017, and booth sales have increased in net square footage by 70% since that time. 

For 2026 – 2030 anticipated peak room block (per year):  32,000  / 173,120 total rooms (per year).

Media Relations

ITB Berlin

Choose Chicago’s Media Relations team hosted and/or supported more than 25 members of the media on individual media visits to Chicago in March 2018.

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The team traveled to, hosted or were represented at seven in-market media events (Mexico media reception, ITB Berlin, TravMedia’s IMM UK, Los Angeles media reception and more) in March.  

The media coverage generated in March resulted in approximately $3 million in media value. A sampling of stories published in March 2018 included:


Partner Showcase

Partner Showcase Event

Don’t miss this must-attend event held only twice a year!

Meet over 45 Choose Chicago exhibiting partners and discover new products and services to help you provide an unparalleled customer experience. Network directly with key contacts and learn about our partner hotels, restaurants, event venues, tours and attractions, event suppliers and more.

Thursday, May 17, 2018
11:00am - 1:30pm

McCormick Place West Building - Gate 40
2301 S. Indiana Ave.
Chicago, IL 60616
Room W181

View exhibiting partner organizations
Register now

This event is complimentary.

New Partners

View the list of new partners below.

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Architectural/Cultural Tours
Capturing Chicago
Chinese Fine Arts Society
Institute of Food Technologists
Audio/Visual, Photography & Videography
Michael Novo Photography
Bus Tours
A&A Transportation Group
Charter Buses
Total Charters Chicago
Dining – American Contemporary
The James Kitchen + Bar
Shinola Detroit
Millennium Garages

Chicago’s Chess Records Celebrates the History of the Blues

Chicago is an epicenter for the arts, and foremost among those arts is music that migrated and matured here - the Blues.  It all started with Choose Chicago partner Chess Records, which occupies a unique place in America’s music history.


Chicago's Tourism Momentum Continues


Surge in Room Demand Pushes Occupancy to Record Highs; Builds on Record Job Growth Set in 2017

Read Full Press Release

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and David Whitaker, President & CEO of Choose Chicago, recently announced Chicago reached record tourism levels in the first quarter of 2018. The results build on Chicago’s record performance of 55.2 million visitors in 2017 and reflect the city’s growing strength in attracting more leisure visitors and convention delegates.

“Tourism in Chicago means jobs throughout Chicago,” Mayor Emanuel said. “By continuing to set new tourism records and bring millions more people to Chicago every year, we are creating jobs and generating economic opportunities that reach every Chicago neighborhood.”

In the first quarter of 2018, total rooms occupied reached a record 2.33 million, an increase of 10.5 percent. The double-digit growth was fueled by both an increase in leisure rooms booked - up 7.1 percent, and a significant increase in group rooms booked - up 20.5 percent.  The occupancy rate increased 5.7 percent, up to 61.2 percent, which ties for the highest level ever recorded, set over a decade ago.

“We’re encouraged to see the momentum continue as Chicago experiences unparalleled growth, especially in winter visitation,” Whitaker said., “A primary focus of Choose Chicago and our partners is to establish Chicago as a 12-month visitor destination for both vacationers and meetings delegates.”

Chicago’s tourism industry supported an estimated 146,500 jobs in 2017, a 17 percent increase since Mayor Emanuel took office. Prior to 2011, there were an estimated 124,400 tourism-related positions. The 55.2 million visitors to Chicago in 2017 generated an estimated 22,000 additional jobs. In 2010 Chicago saw approximately 39.25 million visitors. 2017’s performance is an approximately 40 percent increase.

Choose Chicago continues to aggressively work to bring in meetings and conventions that have not previously met in Chicago, including six the city hosted in the first quarter. The growth in leisure rooms was also reflected in Expedia bookings data, which paced up 14 percent in the first quarter year over year. The positive trend looks to continue as Choose Chicago announced that current reports indicate advance room-nights booked on Expedia are currently pacing up 25 percent for the combined key summer travel months of June, July and August.

Six new hotels opened their doors in Chicago’s Central Business District in 2017 with another eight new hotels scheduled to open in 2018, including the new 175-room Hotel Zachary, which opened last week adjacent to Wrigley Field.  The continued hotel boom further demonstrates investor confidence in Chicago.

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From Our Blog


This is the Midwest Mecca, where urban blues, gospel and house music were born. 

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

Laver Cup Tickets

Laver Cup

Laver Cup tickets are going fast, and limited single-session tickets are on sale today! Don’t miss your chance to attend the Laver Cup's debut in the U.S. at the United Center.

Buy Tickets

Follow @lavercup on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram!

Volunteers Needed


Choose Chicago, McCormick Place/SMG and the City of Chicago are excited to host the 2018 ASAE Annual Meeting & Exposition.

We are seeking volunteers to assist in welcoming and directing 7,000+ attendees at the airports, hotels, hosted major events, and other activities.