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Choose Chicago Gets More Private Money To Boost Tourism

By Chuck Sudo in News on Feb 21, 2013 8:30PM


Choose Chicago, the city’s official tourism arm, received a $5 million boost from the city Thursday aimed at putting O’Hare and Midway Airports front and center as part of a campaign promoting Chicago as an international tourist hub.

The Chicago Department of Aviation will provide Choose Chicago with money to be used solely for the purpose of marketing O’Hare and Midway through advertising campaigns encouraging visitors and trade shows to use the two airports as international travel hubs. An estimated 43.6 million people visited Chicago in 2011 and Mayor Rahm Emanuel wants to see 50 million visitors by 2020.

Choose Chicago Board chairman Bruce Rauner spoke with Crain’s Chicago Business about the organization’s efforts to boost tourism and they sound more aggressive than Emanuel’s. Rauner, a businessman and rumored GOP gubernatorial candidate who waged a scorched earth campaign against the Chicago Teachers Union during last year’s teachers’ strike, said “the city now realizes” the value of money spent on marketing and marketing in tourism. (We believe Rauner intended that order.)

"A dollar more spent by the city on marketing today generates two dollars back in city tax revenues within nine months," Mr. Rauner said in an interview Wednesday. "Not many investments double in nine months."

Choose Chicago’s Fiscal Year 2013 budget was $27.6 million, a combination of city and private funds. Rauner told Crain’s he’d like to add more members to the organization’s board and increase private funding, and added “there’s a good chance I will have to step down in the next couple of months to pursue various civic engagements.” (Like a run for governor, perhaps?)

The Emanuel administration may have realized the value of spending money to market the city to tourists. We’re not sure if Choose Chicago is the right organization to entrust with that money. Choose Chicago CEO Don Welsh had to walk back statements he made to the Tribune editorial board last year suggesting the city’s homicide rate had an adverse effect on tourism efforts.

And how can we forget the money they spent to create this hot mess of an official city theme song?

There's also this little bit of marketing speak: "See why Chicago is ranked number one in number one rankings."

With Rauner, Welsh and Choose Chicago brainstorming other ideas to boost tourism including cable cars above the riverfront, light shows bouncing off skyscrapers, luxury cars on the Blue Line from O'Hare and, oh, yeah, a casino, we aren't sure what kind of tourist Choose Chicago is courting.