That was an an 11.2 percent increase over the 38.11 visitors in 2010.
"This increase in visitors reflects what we already know - that Chicago
is the most American of American cities, a place that attracts tourists and business visitors from around the globe to our world-class restaurants, outstanding museums, and vibrant and diverse neighborhoods," said Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
The numbers represents the first positive year-over-year change in this visitor metric since 2007 and surpasses the overall U.S. average by 4.5 percent. It was Mayor Emanuel, who earlier this year announced that Chicago's tourism efforts would be joined into "one cohesive organization," ultimately saving $1.3 million a year in resources. The savings will be reinvested into Choose Chicago's regional, national and international marketing and public relations efforts to attract even more visitors to the City.
As for what this means for the city, it may be quite simple, notes the mayor. "These visitors create many jobs for Chicagoans and contribute directly to the economic growth of our city. We welcome them and look forward to many more as we achieve our goal of 50 million visitors a year by 2020."
Heavy praise also came from the leader of the state of Illinois. "Chicago is home to world-class restaurants, museums, galleries and so much more, and I am pleased that more visitors are discovering this great city. I look forward to continuing to welcome leaders and guests from all over the world."
Chairman Bruce Rauner echoed Mayor Emanuel's sentiments and even added to them as he said, "The team at Choose Chicago has been tasked with elevating the newly formed organization and at the same time sharpening Chicago's competitive edge." Then, he added, "It is clear that 2011 was the turning point and that we are well on our way to achieving Mayor Emanuel's vision for tourism as a driving force for Chicago's growth."
The key driver behind the city's improved travel volume was overnight travel. Here is a quick look at those numbers.
- A record 23.07 million overnight business and leisure travelers (that was an increase of 11.3 percent over 2010).
- Leisure travel saw 31.8 million travelers (that was a 13.5 percent increase over 2010)
- Business travel to Chicago increased 5.1 percent to 10.58 million.
According to Choose Chicago, the city's growth in domestic business and leisure visitors is nearly 50 percent more than the average overall visitation to the United States. Total domestic business and leisure visitation to the US in 2011 was 3.07 billion -- a 6.7 percent increase over 2010. Overnight business and leisure travel increased by 7.9 percent to 1.33 billion. Leisure travel grew to 2.57 billion -- an increase of 7.5 percent while business
travel grew by 2.8 percent to 4.98 billion.
"Significant increases across all travel segments are extremely encouraging. In particular, the substantial gain in the overnight segment is paramount as it represents marked gains for jobs, direct spending and tax revenue to the city and state," said Don Welsh, Choose Chicago President and CEO.
The numbers are surely good but it is just the beginning, notes Welsh. "While this is a solid beginning, there is much work to be done to ensure we achieve our vision of making Chicago the premier destination for leisure and business travelers."
The benefits, of course, hit the hotel industry as well. Chicago hotels saw and increase in visitors in 2011 with an overall occupancy of 72.1 percent. That was a a 3.4 percent change over 2010.
"As governor, I am committed to promoting all that our city and state have to offer, and making sure Chicago remains a global destination for both recreation and business," Governor Quinn concluded..
* Chicago's visitor industry is an economic engine directly responsible for 124,000 jobs, $616 million in tax revenue and $11.1 billion in direct spending**. Projected at a rate of 50 million visitors annually, the direct impact could increase to 155,000-165,000 jobs, $1.2 - $1.3 billion per year in tax revenue and $14.7 billion in direct spending.
** Based on 2010 visitor volume