Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel today announced that the city set a new tourism record, welcoming more than 57.6 million visitors in 2018 – a growth of 4.3% over the previous year.
“When it comes to attracting tourists and business travelers, Chicago can go toe-to-toe with any city in the world,” Mayor Emanuel said. “By continuing to set new tourism records and bring millions more people to Chicago every year, we are creating jobs and economic opportunities that reach every neighborhood.”
Annual visitor projections released by Choose Chicago were fueled by a growth of 4.4% in domestic visitors and an increase of 2.9% in overseas visitors.
“It’s encouraging to not only see growth, but to see the pace of growth increase,” said David Whitaker, President & CEO of Choose Chicago. “The previous year, visitor volumes grew 2.7%, so to see the pace improve with now a 4.3% annual increase is a reflection of the momentum that Chicago is enjoying and the growing impact the tourism, meetings and events industry generates in our community.”
Growth was also achieved in the convention sales results in 2018 as Choose Chicago and its partners at McCormick Place and participating host hotels announced that 60 additional new major conventions have committed to meet in Chicago in future years, that’s in addition to 2,301 smaller meetings welcoming more than 1 million delegates committing to meet in partner hotels. In all, more than 2.6 million future room-nights are projected to be generated from an additional 4 million delegates.
The increases in 2018 were also reflected in major meetings and trade shows hosted in Chicago. Of the 50 largest events convening at McCormick Place in 2018, 40% (20 conventions) broke either attendance for exhibitor participation records, with 15 of these meetings setting new all-time attendance records, including 11 setting new exhibition space sales records and 8 that reported record-breaking number of exhibitors.
The overall impact of the visitor industry continues to be demonstrated by a variety of key barometers. Chicago tourism-related employment is estimated to have reached 150,616 jobs in 2018, an increase of 1.2%. More than 22,000 new tourism-related jobs have been added since 2011.
Seven additional hotels opened in Chicago in 2018. Hotel room demand (rooms consumed) by visitors last year grew 4.2%. The overall annual occupancy rate increased to 75.4% for the year. The growth in demand helped fuel an increase in the average daily room rate of 4.6%, resulting in a reported 9.1% rise in hotel revenues. With this success and growth, Chicago hotels generated a record $140 million in city hotel tax revenues, resulting in an additional $11.7 million in tax collections to support city services. An additional $12.9 million in state hotel taxes was generated by hotel room sales to support state services.
There was an important increase in international travelers to Chicago in 2018. Airline Passenger Information System (APIS) data collected from arriving non-stop international flights to Chicago for the first 11 months of the year show an increase of 3.9%, led by a growth in the number of passport holders from Brazil (up 16.2%), United Kingdom (up 14.1%), Italy (up 10.9%), South Korea (up 9.2%), Mexico (up 7.4%), Canada (up 2.5%) and China (up 2.1%).
“The diversity of our visitors continues to grow as we welcome more and more people both from around the US and increasingly around the world,” noted Whitaker. “Diverse customers help match and fulfill the incredible diversity of experiences, venues, flavors and performances found here. A great city to visit is borne out of a city that is a great place to live, work and play.”