Less is more: How Chicago grew tourism


Be seen with the Bean! Chicago’s growing tourism with a unified message. Image: By Tony Webster (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.

With the help of pro bono partners, Chicago created a single, unified voice for all the great things you can do and see in the city, and tourism is growing. 

 

Like many cities, Chicago used to have separate entities focused on attracting different types of tourists.  This appeared to make sense: leisure tourists and business tourists were different animals (so the thinking went), and you needed different strategies and messages to attract each.  But Chicago was not competing well in comparison to other cities like New York, and the City leaders wanted to know why.

They reached out to the Civic Consulting Alliance to help them estimate Chicago’s performance against other cities, and better understand the best practices in bringing tourists (and tourist dollars) into Chicago.

With support from the Civic Consulting Alliance and pro bono partners Griffin Strategic Advisors LLC and Jones Day, the City of Chicago looked at ten comparable cities (including Philadelphia and New York), and what they found surprised them.  It appeared that cities with unified marketing strategies were more successful at attracting all kinds of tourists.

With this in mind, in the summer of 2012 the City of Chicago merged two separate marketing entities creating a single organization, Choose Chicago, charged with promoting both leisure and business tourism to the city. Since Choose was created, tourism has risen significantly, with record hotel occupancy of more than 75 percent and record visitation of more than 46 million visitors in 2013.

Indeed, Chicago’s efforts have been so successful that now they are getting noticed.   The Philadelphia Inquirer recently highlighted Choose Chicago as a model that Philadelphia (one of the ten cities Chicago initially used to compare itself) might want to emulate.

They say imitation is the highest form of flattery, and why wouldn’t another city want to copy a success like this?  Bringing together public and private partners to seek new and practical solutions that help cities grow is at the heart of the Civic Consulting model.  Kudos to the Civic Consulting Alliance, and to Philadelphia for knowing a good thing when they see it.