The Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau is merging with the Chicago Office of Tourism and Culture in an effort to streamline operations and free up funds that can be used to promote the city. CCTB President and CEO Don Welsh will head up the new organization, which has not yet been named.
The city expects to save $1.3 million annually by combining the two entities, and that money will be invested in national and international marketing campaigns. Chicago’s current budget for tourism promotion is $17.8 million, well below Las Vegas, Orlando, San Francisco, New York, San Diego, Toronto, San Antonio, Philadelphia, Miami, and Los Angeles, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. The goal is to attract 50 million visitors per year by 2020, about 10 million more than today, and to increase the number of international visitors from 4.6 percent of the total to 6 percent of the total by 2020.
As a result of the increase in visitors, tax revenues would increase anywhere from $250 million to $300 million per year while visitor spending would increase by $3.6 billion to $14.7 billion annually, according to officials. At the current rate of 40 million visitors annually, Chicago’s convention and tourism industry supports 124,000 jobs, $11.1 billion in direct spending, and $616 million in tax revenues.
“This new organization will allow us to focus all of the city’s efforts to attract visitors for business, pleasure, and culture,” said Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who announced the restructuring on January 31. The merger is expected to be complete by July 1. The Office of Tourism and Culture is a city department, while the CCTB is a not-for-profit. The new organization will be a not-for-profit, according to reports.
Some jobs may be eliminated as a result of the merger, but details have not been determined yet, Welsh told the Chicago Tribune. The CCTB employs 70 people, while the Office of Tourism and Culture has 91 full-time employees and 43 part-time employees, states the Tribune.
The city’s splintered approach has somewhat hampered marketing efforts and created confusion among customers, Welsh told the Sun-Times. “Our ultimate goal is to make Chicago the premier destination for domestic and international business and leisure travelers,” said Welsh. “Today’s decision will help the city more cost effectively advance and achieve this vision.”