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Chicago tourism saw sharp increase in 2021

Choose Chicago’s new tagline is replacing its “Welcome Home” campaign, which was launched in 2017. “When You Go You Know” aims to beckon people back to the city. And as the new data reveals, they’re starting to return.

According to numbers released by the mayor’s office, the city welcomed 30.7 million visitors from all over the US and the world, an 86% uptick from 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic brought most traveling to a halt. While Chicago still has a way to go to return to its pre-pandemic levels, the sector is trending in a positive direction. Tourism spending was estimated at $9.8 billion for 2021, helped that of 2019.

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“We are excited to see these numbers for 2021 despite the challenges we faced,” Osmond said in a statement. “It is a true testament to Chicago’s resilience and strength as a top destination for tourists, businesses, and events. I have never been more confident in our ability to make a full recovery.”

This year, the city expects that international and business travel will continue to pick up now that travel restrictions have eased. The statement from the mayor’s office added, “In May, occupancy at hotels in the central business district averaged 66%, and room rates averaged more than $242 per night, surpassing May 2019 levels.”

Convention center behemoth McCormick Place is also seeing a big bounce back as it’s expected to host 183 events this year, bringing in 1.5 million visitors and, most importantly, generating $1.8 billion of “economic impact.”

“When You Go You Know” comes on the heels of the controversial “Chicago Not in Chicago” campaign, a collaboration between the city and local agency Energy BBDO that launched this past January but didn’t involve Choose Chicago. The infamous marketing campaign touted the city’s influence in other metropolitan areas, namely big brother New York, while not actually featuring Chicago. Another campaign that didn’t involve Choose Chicago, “What We’re Made Of,” was unveiled to far fewer cries of protest in March.

Choose Chicago has already splashed “When You Go You Know” across its website just in time for the start of the summer tourism season. The agency will roll out the full campaign regionally and nationally later this month.

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