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Chicago Tourism Chief Backtracks On Statement Murder Rate May Be Hurting Tourism Efforts

By Chuck Sudo in News on Jul 12, 2012 2:30PM

Choose Chicago CEO Don Welsh (Photo Credit: CBS)
The head of Chicago's tourism and convention office is backing away ever so slightly from comments he made where he suggested the spike in the city's murder rate and the return of roving mobs of violent teens downtown may hamper his office’s efforts to grow business.

Choose Chicago CEO Don Welsh offered his statements to the Chicago Tribune editorial board Wednesday. Welsh said he received a handful of calls in recent weeks from meeting planners concerned over whether Chicago would be a safe location to hold their meetings, and expressed hope that the city was working to stop the violence.

"We hope this sunsets quickly because all the good work we're doing regionally, nationally and internationally, if this is not contained in a reasonable period of time, it will have an impact."

Welsh stressed that no one was canceling meetings yet and the calls were only to express concern. Regardless, his comments sent Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office into damage control mode, with Emanuel communication director Sarah Hamilton calling Welsh’s assertions “simply false” and touting current visitor rates and hotel occupancies.
Welsh then backtracked his own comments lest he receive a gift of a fish wrapped in newspaper from Emanuel.

“There has never been a second thought about how we position Chicago as the safest big city in the world. The only issue we’ve run into is this isolated gang activity that the mayor has been aggressively dealing with. [Overall] crime continues to be down. The shootings we have seen have been almost 100 percent isolated to neighborhoods outside the downtown core of Chicago where tourists and visitors from around the world frequent.”

While we would only be guessing if the murder rate increase may be hampering Choose Chicago’s efforts to attract tourism, crime is prevalent in any major city. For us wasting money on the worst tourism theme in recent memory would have us second guessing.