Did Chicago seem more crowded downtown in 2017? Did you have to wait longer for a table at that restaurant you used to be able to walk right in to? Tickets at Wrigley harder to find without taking out a mortgage?
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Well besides a 2016 Cubs World Series win, it may have to do deal with the fact that the city broke the record for most tourist visits to the city.
According to the Chicago Tribune, the 55.2 million people visited Chicago in 2017. This was much higher than the 48.3 million that visited in 2016.
So what exactly is responsible for these high numbers?
As Mayor Rahm Emanuel told the Tribune, the city landed the top spot on multiple lists from national publications such as the “restaurant city of the year” by Bon Appetite, architectural accolades from the Financial Times, and top honors from readers of Conde Nast Traveler.
High profile events like the James Beard Awards, the NFL Draft, Lollapalooza and other music festivals also contribute to these numbers, not to mention the increase in hotel construction over the past couple years.
David Whitaker is the CEO of Choose Chicago, the city’s tourism bureau. Choose Chicago launched a digital advertising campaign last May, which also helped give the city a boost.
Other reasons people might want to visit Chicago?
- The city was voted the best place to celebrate Christmas.
- Some of the best restaurants in the country are here according to, Open Table, Business Insider, and Michelin.
- Chicago has some of the highest quality of life worldwide.
- There are affordable homes in safe neighborhoods with multiple commuter options.
The Tribune noted that there was actually a lower number of business-related trips but that most visitors were tourist related; this despite the way those in certain higher up political offices view Chicago.
As Whitaker pointed out, many conventions don’t take place in odd-number years. So what that means is that 2018 could even shatter 2017’s record. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.