Chicago tourism sets August record

As the third largest market in the United States, Chicago is a major tourist location for both leisure and business travelers. This August, Chicago’s hotel occupancy set new records with 86.4 percent of hotel rooms filled, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced Sept. 25.

Hotel occupancy numbers were up by 1.6 percent from last August and the average daily rates for rooms increased about $10 from last year. The record numbers for this August were propelled by an increase in leisure travelers, with leisure occupancy at 58.2 percent, according to the city.

“Our ongoing efforts to fill Chicago’s hotel rooms through an aggressive marketing strategy and tourism campaign can be attributed to much of August 2013’s success,” Don Welsh, president and CEO of Choose Chicago, said.

Choose Chicago was formed in July 2012 following Emanuel taking office, to create one organization that could focus on expanding Chicago’s tourism industry. Currently, Chicago welcomes 43.6 million visitors every year and is responsible for 132,000 related jobs in Chicago.

So far this year, Chicago is expected to set new records including total revenue from hotels, which is already exceeding $1.2 billion. Since Emanuel took office, tourism has been an important issue and something he still places emphasis on.

“Chicago is a world class city and a top tourist destination,” Emanuel said. “It is my continued mission to increase Chicago’s tourism marketability to ensure our city remains one of the most attractive places in the country to visit for business or pleasure.”

The summer months in Chicago bring in the highest occupancy rates and average daily room rates. In 2012, June saw the highest numbers with 91.8 percent occupancy and an average daily rate of $224. In June 2013, the occupancy rate was 90.3 percent with a higher average daily rate of $247, according to Choose Chicago.

At DePaul, the School of Hospitality Leadership is the first hospitality and tourism industry-focused program in Illinois. Thomas Maier, an assistant professor at the School of Hospitality Leadership, said it’s no surprise that Chicago is experiencing positive grown in tourism and leisure travel.

“Part of the reason for that is that the industry as a whole has enjoyed good recovery in terms of occupancy and travel, and it’s primarily driven by both average daily rate growth and new demand that’s been created in a tight supply market,” Maier said.

Chicago proves to be a popular destination for both leisure and business travelers.

“Chicago is very popular because of its transportation infrastructure and many attractions,” Maier said. “Of course we’re a tourism destination for conventions and associations with McCormick Place.”

DePaul Hospitality instructor Brian Barker said the positive growth in Chicago is beneficial for hospitality students.

“We are excited here at DePaul for the increase in tourism because what it does mean is that it represents direct opportunities of placement for the students who are inside of our program,” Barker said.