Chicago can go places if more people come here, according to Don Welsh, president and CEO of Choose Chicago, the city's new tourism agency.
Welsh cites these numbers: Chicago had 42 million-plus visitors last year, which supported 124,000 jobs and brought in $11 billion-plus in direct spending and $16 million in taxes for the city and state. Choose Chicago has set a goal of boosting those numbers to 50 million visitors by 2020, which would support 155,000 to 165,000 jobs and bring in another $4 billion to $5 billion in direct spending while doubling the tax take.
That's a lot of extra visitors asking for directions to Millennium Park.
"We feel this is a very achievable goal," Welsh told the Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board this week.
All you need to do. he said, is add a little of what insiders in the trade call "destination management."
Choose Chicago, which was created by combining the old Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau with the tourism chores of the Chicago Office and Tourism and Culture, was set up to do just that. The agency officially came into existence on July 1.
Bruce Rauner, chairman of Choose Chicago, said the new agency is part of an effort to make the visitor industry a top priority for the city.
"When you look at the numbers, we play way below our weight in terms of visitors," Rauner said. "When you look at what we are and what we do vs. how we compare in our numbers of visitors and, more importantly, the spending and stay of visitors, we are way below where we should be. We are going to change that in the coming few years."
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