Our Chicago: How tourism is recovering nearly 3 years after start of pandemic

ByKay Cesinger WLS logo
Sunday, December 18, 2022
Our Chicago: How tourism is rebounding, Pt. 1
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Lynn Osmond, the new President and CEO of Choose Chicago, speaks about how the city's tourism is rebounding since the beginning of the pandemic.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Last spring, Lynn Osmond became the new President and CEO of Choose Chicago, the city's tourism arm.

She stepped into the role two years into the pandemic, which had a huge impact on the city's hospitality industry.

According to Choose Chicago, more than 60 million tourists visited the city in 2019. That fell to fewer than 17 million in 2020. As we wrap up 2022, we're looking at how those numbers are rebounding and what's ahead for 2023.

"Well we had a fabulous summer. We had about a 90% recovery rate in the summer," Osmond said. "The hotels were packed, the streets were full, the attractions were busy. And this fall we're actually doing very well. We'll probably end the year somewhere around 82% of 2019, and 2019 was the most successful year that we'd ever had."

Lynn Osmond, the new President and CEO of Choose Chicago, talks about the two arms of tourism that are driving the rebound.

She said that's 9 million room nights were filled. Her hope is that 2025 will be the final year that we come out of the pandemic tourism losses.

As for how the recovery has come about, "Well there are two arms that we really focus on, getting conventions to return and we've had a very successful year with that because we had a lot of conventions that were already booked," Osmond said. "And then we had a few of them that had to reschedule from the COVID years. And so they were back. So we had a lot of conventions coming back, their numbers were very strong. They were looking at as high as 80-85 percent recovery many of them. And so that was great to see them coming back. Then with leisure, we've certainly had a lot of dynamism with leisure and really pushing the city, its incredible architecture, its lakefront, its positioning. We had best big city for the sixth year in a row by Conde Nast Traveler. But really talking about all we have to offer, the cultural attractions, the sports, the restaurants, it's just really an exciting place to be."

In 2023, one of the first big events is Chicago Restaurant Week which begins January 20 and runs for two weeks. It will feature more than 300 of the city's top restaurants.