Chicago officials report signs of tourism recovery

Chicago saw an 86% increase in visitors last year compared to 2020, a result that shows pent-up tourism demand, city officials said Wednesday.

The 30.7 million domestic and international travelers who came to Chicago in 2021 represent a healthy business return that has continued throughout this year as pandemic restrictions ease, Mayor Lori Lightfoot and leaders said. of Choose Chicago, the city’s tourism promoter. In 2020, against the backdrop of a wider economic shutdown, the city recorded just 16.3 million visitors.

But the new tourism tally represents only half of the nearly 61 million visitors the city reported in 2019, before the onset of COVID-19.

Lightfoot said the 2021 data “shows visitors across the United States and the world are hungry to return to our amazing city.”

Lynn Osmond, CEO of Choose Chicago, called it “a true testament to Chicago’s resilience and strength as a premier destination for tourists, businesses and events. I’ve never been more confident in our ability to fully recover.”

She said the improvements came even though Chicago didn’t reach a Phase 5 economic reopening until June 2021 and the ban on foreign travel lasted until November. Total tourism spending here was estimated at $9.8 billion in 2021, about half the 2019 total.

The 2021 report was released at Choose Chicago’s annual convention. The report cites other evidence of the sector’s recovery, such as the return of tourism-related employment to 60% of pre-pandemic levels.

He also reported a strong recovery in hotel bookings across the city, resulting in a 163% increase in tax revenue compared to 2020. before the pandemic, according to the report.

Meanwhile, research by the Chicago Loop Alliance, representing downtown businesses, showed a continued upturn in activity this year. In its report covering the month of May, the group said hotel occupancy had reached its highest level since the start of the pandemic and pedestrian numbers were approaching pre-pandemic levels.

The only indicator that is down slightly from the April data is office occupancy, at 44% in May. The alliance reported continued strong demand at Loop parking garages, while ridership rates for Metra and CTA still lag behind pre-pandemic levels.

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