Exciting Changes for Promoting Chicago Tourism

Whether you work in the hospitality and travel industry or not, the changes going on with the Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau (aka Choose Chicago) will affect you if you live in Chicago. Last week this organization, which promotes Chicago as a visitor destination, held its annual meeting at the Cadillac Palace Theater. Big changes were announced, and these changes will hopefully have major impact on the tourism industry, a great generator of the local economy and contributor to tax revenue.

Choose Chicago Promotes Tourism

Chicago’s tourism industry is behind most major U.S. cities in terms of number of visitors and visitor spending. We have minimally promoted the city as a travel destination, both domestically and internationally, and we are ranked 10th for international visitor destinations in the U.S. despite being the 3rd biggest city in America. Chicago has needed a promotional push, and what the CCTB, aka “Choose Chicago,” is making this happen.

However we do not fall short at making a big impression on visitors. I’m sure I’m not the only Chicagoan who has this experience when talking with people from the coasts. You get one of two reactions when you say you’re from Chicago: 1. An enthusiastic response of what an incredible city or 2. Glazed look befalls their face. I’m quite sure that No. 2 here comes from people knowing just about nothing about Chicago.  Travelers, both in the U.S. and worldwide, need to be more familiar with our incredible attractions, architecture, art, beaches, bike paths, theater, parks, restaurants, local culture, and of course creative tour companies. And these travelers need this familiarity not just for our benefit either! I’m quite sure that many a traveler would greatly appreciate discovering that Chicago will be the perfect destination for their next trip.

New Plans from Choose Chicago

The meeting outlined some of the new initiatives and strategies: 1. Make McCormick Place financially alluring to conventions via legislative reforms 2. Increase visitation from regional markets 3. Generate awareness nationally 4. Grow international visitation.

At the CCTB meeting, speakers included President and CEO Don Welsh, Chairman of the Board Bruce Rauner, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, and representatives of the CCTB. Senior VP, Marketing and Communications updated us on the new branding and SEO-enhanced website. A digital advertising campaign this past winter targeted Midwest markets. More videos are under production for international markets. New videos showcase highlights of Chicago attractions, from nightlife to museums.

The Mayor spoke of the goals he has set for increasing Chicago tourism, which was great to hear after he disregarded my question to him about promoting Chicago tourism last spring.

Adding Sports and Culture to Our Sales Pitch

I was surprised to hear about the new Chicago Sports Commission. Pretty much all I know of sports is the “curse of the Billy Goat,” which we talk about on our Historic Chicago Walking Bar Tour, but I do know that baseball, football, hockey, etc, etc are key aspects of Chicago culture. They will work to promote international, national, and collegiate events in Chicago. Think of how many people flood into the city for marathons, for example.

There was no mention of the merger with the tourism department of the Chicago Office of Tourism and Culture, other than the elusive comment: “We’ve been splintered and now we have one voice.” I’m pretty sure that the Explore Chicago website is going to get pulled, and everything centered on the Choose Chicago site.

Music added to the morning meeting. CCTB has come up with a branded song for “Choose Chicago.” What a challenge that must be! The song sounded like a cross between Backstreet Boys and Taylor Swift, or in other words, not my thing. But how do you make a song that appeals to so many different tastes?

The stage received a surprise visit from a blues guitarist and spoken word poet Kevin Coval. With the theme of “Choose Chicago,” the poem’s finest lines in my opinion are “I always tell people not to come to Chicago in the summer unless you want to stay here forever.”

Chairman of the CCTB Board Bruce Rauner encouraged feedback from us on all these new initiatives. I am very excited that all of these changes are happening; upper level management will likely be particularly open to considering creative ideas. I plan to share some of my ideas for attracting new visitors in a blog post soon.

–Amanda Scotese, Executive Director

 

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Ellen

Private Tour Coordinator and Tour Guide

There is no shortage of things to discover in Chicago—I love being an urban explorer and uncovering its hidden places. I have an MA in Public History from Loyola University Chicago, and I have worked as a museum educator and kindergarten teacher. My desire to learn new things fuels my passion for educating others, which I get to experience every day as a Chicago tour guide. I live in the northern neighborhood of Rogers Park.

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Jen

Tour Guide

Whether you are a first-time visitor or a lifelong resident, the vibrant history and modern majesty of Chicago never ceases to amaze. I’m a graduate of Columbia College with an M.A. in Interdisciplinary Art. I’ve worked for many years as an educator at City Colleges of Chicago. As tour guide at Chicago Detours, I integrate my enthusiasm for culture and architecture with my passion as an educator. West Town/Noble Square area is home for me.

“Jen was a perfect storyteller and kept us spellbound for hours.”
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Elyse

Tour Guide

With our Chicago neighborhoods, vibrant cultural institutions and nearly two centuries of larger-than-life stories, there’s never a dull moment here! I’m a fifth generation Chicagoan and a graduate of Washington University in St. Louis. In addition to guiding tours, I’m a creative writer and amateur genealogist. I also enjoy the city’s dynamic theater scene. You can also read overlooked stories from 19th-century newspapers on my “Second Glance History” blog. I live in River North.

Anthony

Tour Guide

Chicago is unique as it always evolves into the future while holding on to the past. I’m fascinated by how people latch on to old architecture but happily pave over others. My background is in theater and performance and I’ve been a tour guide here for more than 10 years. Currently I’m finishing my Master’s in Public History at Loyola University because I love to teach the history of this scrappy city. I’m in the Edgewater neighborhood.

Marie

Operations Coordinator and Tour Guide

Chicago’s history is so fascinating, you could spend a lifetime uncovering its secrets…I’m willing to give it a try! I have an M.A. in US History from the University of Nevada-Las Vegas and then pursued doctoral studies in Urban History at the University of Illinois at Chicago. I love to learn new aspects of Chicago’s rich history and then share my knowledge as a tour guide with Chicago Detours. I live in Ravenswood.

“Marie was a bubbling fountain of information and contagious enthusiasm.”
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Sonny

Operations Coordinator and Tour Guide

As a fourth generation Chicagoan, I have been living and loving Chicago by bike, on foot, public transit or automobile. I am a graduate of UIC where through the College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs, began my eagerness to understand the nature, history and impacts of urban planning and development. It is incredibly rewarding to give back to this wonderful city by helping out in the office of Chicago Detours. I live in the incredibly diverse neighborhood of Albany Park.
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Alex

Content Manager and Tour Guide

Chicago has so many neighborhoods, buildings, and by-ways that it’s hard to go long without seeing something new, or something familiar from a new angle. I studied Cinema History for my M.A. from the University of Chicago. I’ve worked as a culture writer for various publications and as an educator of the humanities at the City Colleges of Chicago. I’m thrilled to share my love of this city’s busy past and unique architectural spaces with Chicago Detours. I live in the Chicago neighborhood of Lincoln Park.

“Alex was fascinating to listen to. He clearly knows his history and it shows.”
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Amanda Scotese

Executive Director and Tour Guide

I’m an interpreter of personal stories from the past and the city’s landscape. I love to imagine what originally happened inside old unmarked buildings, and what forces have shaped their design. I studied Chicago history, architectural history, and anything Chicago-related through my M.A. in the Humanities at the University of Chicago. My love for stories was enriched by my B.A. in Literature from the University of Michigan. I’ve written travel articles for publications like Rick Steves’ Italy best-selling travel guides, the San Francisco Bay Guardian, and The Chicago Food Encyclopedia. I live in the Chicago neighborhood of West Avondale.
“You can TELL Amanda is hyper-passionate about doing the research and getting the story that nobody’s heard before.”
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