Anderson is one of the city’s most veteran tourism promoters, having served in a sales role for the former Chicago Convention & Tourism Bureau from 2002 to 2007 and as an executive for Peninsula Hotels before joining Choose. His role will be another key position to fill for a tourism bureau that, like the hospitality sector it serves, has been decimated in the past year.
Choose, which relies heavily on tax proceeds from the COVID-battered hotel industry for its budget, is operating this year with about half the normal $30 million-plus it deploys to market the city. It also has 39 full-time staff today—all of whom are operating with a one-day-per-week furlough—down from a headcount of 81 pre-pandemic.
That has gutted an organization that helped draw nearly 61 million visitors to the city in 2019, the eighth straight record-breaking year.
“I have always been incredibly proud to represent this city, as well as the results the team at Choose Chicago achieved over the last six years,” Anderson wrote in the email obtained by Crain’s.
“2020 would have been the No. 1 year in the history of our city and it was incredibly difficult for our team to see their hard work disappear with COVID,” Anderson wrote. “2021 has been more difficult than we/they imagined, but this team is dedicated to lifting Chicago out of our current quandary. As an involved member of the tourism and hospitality industry, I know firsthand that the group recovery efforts that Choose Chicago has coordinated for the team and community are unlike any city in the country.”
In his letter, Anderson, who worked under seven different CEOs for Chicago tourism agencies during his career and played a key role in recruiting conventions and trade shows at McCormick Place, encouraged colleagues to “advocate to reopen our city for meetings and conventions” in the Midst of a “pivotal moment in our history.”
“Clients need and want solutions in planning their 2021 and Q1 2022 events, and we are at grave risk of losing these important groups in Chicago . . . and possibly forever,” he wrote.
A Choose Chicago spokeswoman did not provide a comment on Anderson’s impending departure.