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For The First Time, Over 50 Million People Visited Chicago In A Year

By Emma G. Gallegos in News on Apr 26, 2016 3:45PM

The Bean (Photo by Duane Rapp via the Chicagoist Featured Photos pool on Flickr)

Chicago had a bangin' year for tourism: over 50 million domestic tourists visited in 2015. (Thankfully Spike Lee's Chi-Raq didn't scare everyone away.)

The tally hasn't quite been finalized, but Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Choose Chicago Board Chair Desiree Rogers announced that 50.97 million domestic tourists had visited Chicago, and that number is expected to hit 52 million once international tourists are factored in. The Tribune notes that this is way up from during the recession, when the number of visitors was around 39 million.

The mayor's goal is to bring more than 55 million visitors each year by 2020, which seems like an easily reachable goal at this rate. (That is, if the publicity surrounding the Laquan McDonald case, other ongoing police brutality problems and the ticked up murder rate don't turn off tourists.)

Many visitors are coming just for fun: over 39 million people are "leisure" visitors and 20 million of those are overnight visitors. People who come for business make up over 11 million visitors, and nearly 8 million of those are overnight visitors. Each of these areas grew between 4 and 6 percent since the previous year.

Emanuel mentions the upcoming NFL Draft and James Beard Foundation Awards as "marquee" events that have attracted visitors. The NFL Draft has also cost the city quite a bit of money. But apparently it pays off: tourism created 139,800 jobs last year, and it brought in $935 million in tax revenue, Emanuel says.

It turns out that Chicago is a fun place to visit even if you get stranded here alone.