Mayor Rahm Emanuel/Twitter

Mayor Announces A Record 57.6 Million Visitors To Chicago In 2018

January 11, 2019 - 11:32 am

CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- Chicago broke another tourism record in 2018.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced Friday that Chicago welcomed over 57.6 million visitors in 2018, setting a new tourism record. 

“When it comes to attracting tourists and business travelers, Chicago can go toe-to-toe with any city in the world,” Mayor Emanuel said in a statement. “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.”

The record-number shows a 4.3 percent overall growth from 2017, with a 4.4 percent growth in domestic visitors and a 2.9 percent growth in overseas visitors, according to Choose Chicago. 

“It’s encouraging to not only see growth, but to see the pace of growth increase,” said David Whitaker, President & CEO of Choose Chicago, in a statement.  “The previous year, visitor volumes grew 2.7 percent, so to see the pace improve with now a 4.3 percent 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.”

The growth in tourism in 2018 was in part from major conventions hosted in Chicago, as well as major meetings and trade shows. The city welcomed 60 new major conventions and 2,300 small meetings signing on for future events. Plus seven new hotels opened in Chicago last year, welcoming new visitors and boosting hotel revenues and occupancy rates; with an additional seven hotels expected to open in 2019.

Another key player in Chicago tourism is non-stop international flight options. Airline Passenger Information System found an increase of 3.9 percent for visitors traveling via non-stop flights, with passport holders from Brazil (up 16.2 percent), United Kingdom (up 14.1 percent), Italy (up 10.9 percent), South Korea (up 9.2 percent), Mexico (up 7.4 percent), Canada (up 2.5 percent) and China (up 2.1 percent).

“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.”

Chicago's record-setting tourism assisted in an estimated 150,000 jobs in 2018, a 20 percent increase since Mayor Emanuel took office. The tourism announcement follows news about the James Beard Awards choosing Chicago as its homes for an additional six years, through 2027.

The Mayor made the announcement at the United Soccer Coaches Convention, McCormick Place’s first major convention of the year. The event brings brings more than 20,000 participants to Chicago over five days, with an estimated economic impact of more than $31 million, according to the city. A strong start in the attempt to break the record in 2019.