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Choose Chicago Announces “Tourism & Hospitality Forward” Initiative

choose chicago logo Tourism and Hospitality Forward logoAt the Choose Chicago annual meeting last month, the organization announced Tourism & Hospitality Forward, a new initiative to accelerate and spur Chicago’s tourism industry post-coronavirus and help expedite the city’s economic recovery. To date, a coalition of more than 250 local tourism, hospitality, meeting and event-related organizations and businesses have signed on to the pledge promising alignment, collaboration and socially responsible tourism and hospitality that will instill confidence in residents and visitors as they return to Chicago.

“This current crisis has been simply devastating to so many, including the tourism and hospitality industry, and we recognize that these unprecedented challenges require unprecedented and swift actions in order to restore this economic driver for the city,” says Glenn Eden, chair of the Choose Chicago board of directors. “Our first priority is to promote socially responsible tourism. We will demonstrate to our guests that through the operational changes and precautions taken, it is safe to enjoy Chicago again.”

Chicago’s tourism, hospitality, meetings, and events industries were amongst the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. As the city transitions through a phased reopening, this alliance of industry partners will work together to establish best practices and safety measures for the health and safety of residents and visitors alike when cultural institutions, hotels, attractions and restaurants return to regular business and welcome guests.

“I applaud Choose Chicago’s commitment to developing safe, collaborative solutions to the profound impact COVID-19 has had on our city’s vital tourism and hospitality industry,” says Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot. “Despite the challenges we face, the strength of our recovery is being built on forward-looking partnerships like these which are mutually supportive and rooted in the data of this disease, allowing us to build and grow more resilient, inclusive, and powerful than we’ve ever been.”

There are four components to the pledge:

  • Socially Responsible Planning: We will put the safety of our patrons and employees first by adhering to public health guidance and direction and become leaders in socially responsible tourism and hospitality.
  • Dedicated & Strategic Engagement: We will recognize the importance of taking a strategic and collaborative approach by dedicating the time to align across sectors and develop the phased plans we need to thrive in this challenging environment.
  • Authentic & Inclusive Excellence: We will work together to spur the traffic of Chicago visitors and guests by enhancing our efforts to create unique ways to leverage all of the city’s dynamic neighborhoods and authentic assets.
  • Unparalleled Chicago Advocacy: We advocate for all that Chicago has to offer by cross-promoting offerings and collaborating on shared offers to create a mutually beneficial environment for the industry and ultimately a stronger economy for the city.

Additionally, Tourism & Hospitality Forward announced an outreach and engagement framework that participants can leverage to bring visitors back to Chicago when the time is right. The framework includes:

  • Promoting Chicago’s reopening in a calibrated manner with programs and promotions, such as staycations, designed to engage local audiences.
  • Launching seasonal initiatives to bring leisure travelers to Chicago with an emphasis on neighboring states.
  • Reinforcing that Chicago will continue to be the best place to do business as the city competes for meetings and events.
  • Maximizing all Chicago has to offer through a unifying marketing campaign.

Planning has been underway with several working groups aligned by sector, including accommodations, museums and attractions, arts & culture, festivals, and special events including sports and a dedicated focus on unique and diverse neighborhoods.

“These groups initially began meeting to focus on initial and almost immediate reopening strategies,” says Eden. “They have now evolved and have been rolled up to collaborate with and support Mayor Lightfoot’s longer-term Reopening and Recovery Task Force, including marketing and economic development for the city as a whole.”

“The traditional visitor and convention delegate will remain our ultimate goal in the recovery process,” says David Whitaker, president & CEO of Choose Chicago. “In the early phases of reopening we are going to have to focus and rely on our local residents, nearby suburban and regional visitors and the drive market as a whole. While they will be the first to easily return to their favorite spots and activities, they can also be ambassadors as we welcome guests and visitors back to Chicago.”

What Others Are Saying About Tourism & Hospitality Forward

“We understand that re-opening businesses is not a one-size-fits-all approach,” says Blanca Soto, executive director of Little Village Chamber of Commerce. “We will have to be strategic with gradually opening and monitoring cases at the same time, ensuring businesses adhere to all safety precautions according to City and State standards. We and our members plan to partner with Tourism & Hospitality Forward, the city and the state to keep businesses constantly informed on the safest and most viable approaches to keep their workforce and our customers confident and safe.”

“The Illinois Hotel & Lodging Association has worked with our member companies in recent weeks to ensure that our team members and guests not only feel safe when they return to our hotels but are safe,” says Michael Jacobson, president and CEO of the Illinois Hotel & Lodging Association. “We have released specific guidance to hotels related to increased cleanliness and safety standards and continue to work with the city of Chicago and the state of Illinois to define what reopening our tourism economy will look like to help revitalize Chicago’s economy. For our members, the day cannot come soon enough to rehire their employees and welcome visitors into our hotels once again, but we must ensure that it is done in a safe way. We are taking the steps to ensure that we do just that.”

“I’m honored to have been appointed to Choose Chicago’s Board of Directors and to continue to partner with Mayor Lightfoot on broadening the impact and reach of Chicago’s cultural institutions,” says James Rondeau, president, Art Institute of Chicago. “We look forward to reopening the Art Institute—and the City of Chicago—in a way that feels comfortable and safe for our staff and visitors from our community and around the world.”

“I’m honored to have been appointed to Choose Chicago’s Board of Directors,” says Ayesha Jaco, executive director of West Side United. “Now more than ever our entire community needs to collaborate on, not only a safe and responsible way to reopen our businesses, but an inclusive way as all of Chicago faces this moment together.”

“The cornerstone of Chicago’s 77 communities, restaurants have been devastated by the COVID-19 crisis,” says  Sam Toia, president and CEO, Illinois Restaurant Association. “By mid-April, 321,000 of the state’s 594,900 industry employees had been laid off or furloughed; 55 percent of operators had temporarily closed their businesses; and sales were down 80 percent. But when we talk about reopening responsibly, restaurants have a distinct advantage. Our teams are already accustomed to operating at the highest of standards when it comes to sanitation. Managers, chefs, servers, and bartenders complete mandatory certification courses equipping them with knowledge and best practices designed to protect the well-being of their employees and guests on a daily basis. As we set our sights on reopening, our already health-focused industry has a strong foundation for implementing clear guidelines that will allow their businesses to safely resume dining room service while prioritizing public health.”

Choose Chicago is the official sales and marketing organization responsible for promoting Chicago as a global visitor destination leveraging the city’s unmatched assets to ensure the economic vitality of the city and its member business community. For more info, visit or follow @ChooseChicago on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Photo Credit: Choose Chicago

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