January 14, 2009

Daley Launches City's Winter Tourism Campaign and New Tourism Site

Will Help Kick Start Local Economy by Making It EasierFor Business and Leisure Travelers to Visit Chicago
Mayor's Press Office    312.744.3334

Mayor Richard M. Daley today announced the City's winter tourism campaign, including the launch of a new city tourism website that will showcase Chicago to a worldwide audience and add a new tool to support tourism, which contributed more than $11.5 billion and 132,000 jobs to the city economy in 2007.

"Chicago's convention and tourism industry is among our city's most important. With that in mind today, we're announcing a great new website -ExploreChicago.org - that will increase our visibility around the world and make it easier for visitors and residents alike to take advantage of the great things our city has to offer," Daley said in a news conference held at the Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park.

"It is another step in our ongoing effort to kick start Chicago's economic recovery," he said.

The website will be an important tool for increasing the number of business and leisure travelers who visit Chicago. In 2007, that number was 46 million.

Highlights of the new site include:

  • Listings of hundreds of current events, tours and attractions, searchable by date, neighborhood and area of interest;
  • Multi-media content, including audio tours, slideshows, podcasts, video clips and an itinerary builder;
  • "Insider Profiles" of real Chicagoans, who share their favorite things to see and do in the city;
  • Comprehensive information on each of Chicago's many distinct neighborhoods, complete with interactive Google™ maps;
  • A Virtual Visitor's Center with downloadable brochures, maps and resources for international travelers including information on using public transportation, tipping, using emergency services and exchanging foreign currency.

In addition, the website will also generate revenue for the city through an agreement with Chicago-based Orbitz.com, which will pay a fee to the city when a visitor to the site books a flight or a hotel through Orbitz.

"During the toughest economy in over fifty years, leaders at every level have a responsibility to do all they can to help jump start our nation's economic recovery, now," the Mayor said.

"It is critical that government find ways to get the most from every tax dollar and partner with the private sector on projects such as Explore Chicago.org that will help our city work its way through these very challenging times," he said.

The site is expected to have more than 190,000 visitors each month. Beginning in spring 2009, the site will be available in Spanish and French, as well as English. Translation and localization services will be provided by Translations.com.

Through a partnership with Hewlett Packard, the new tourism website will be the centerpiece of a 6-month long installation in O'Hare Airport beginning in late winter 2009.

The installation will include thirty HP TouchSmart computers located throughout the airport terminals offering Chicagoans and visitors the opportunity to experience www.explorechicago.org as they wait for flights.

And the website links directly to the Chicago 2016 website, expanding our international outreach in support of Chicago's bid to host the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The new website will also be the focus of the 2009 winter tourism campaign, "Explore Chicago: Winter 2009 - The Best Bargain in the World."

From now through the end of February, visitors can go to Explorechicago.org to find information on more than 100 free activities and events happening throughout the city, including:

  • An ice maze in Millennium park
  • Ice skating rinks in neighborhoods throughout the city, and in Millennium Park and the Daley Bicentennial Plaza in Grant Park
  • Snow Days Chicago, a snow sculpting competition and winter festival in Grant Park
  • Exquisite City, City of Cardboard, an exhibition of work at the Chicago Tourism Center by more than 70 artists who have designed an imaginary city block or window made almost entirely out of cardboard.
  • Fireworks over the Chicago River every Saturday night in February.
  • Listings for museums and attractions that are always free -- including Lincoln Park Zoo, Navy Pier, the Garfield Park Conservatory, and the Smart Museum of Art - and others that have free days, including the Chicago Children's Museum, the Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium, DuSable Museum of African American History, and the Museum of Contemporary Art. In addition, the Art Institute of Chicago will be free throughout the month of February.
  • Great food at one great price! Please your palate and your pocketbook during Chicago Restaurant Week when more than 150 restaurants serve up special 3-course lunches for $22 and dinners for $32 (February 20-27).
  • Honor Abraham Lincoln's bicentennial at the Chicago History Museum's 200th Lincoln birthday celebration where admission costs just a penny (February 12); or be inspired by the legendary James Earl Jones narrating Aaron Copland's Lincoln Portrait at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Tickets start at $17 (February 21 & February 24).
  • Experience Chicago theater with hundreds of shows each week at 190 theaters. Choose a show and meet cast members or go behind the curtain with Theater Thursdays. Prices vary (February 5, 12, 19 and 26); or purchase half-price tickets to a show through Hot Tix, in person or online.
  • See the latest models at the 101st Chicago Auto Show, North America's largest with 1,000 different vehicles, including domestic and imported passenger cars and trucks, SUVs and experimental and concept cars on display. Admission: adults, $10; seniors 62+/children 7-11, $5; children under 7 w/paying adult, free (February 13-22).

The website also has a complete list of the many events that will take place in Chicago on and around January 20 to celebrate the inauguration of Barack Obama as President of the United States.

(Visitors and Chicagoans planning to entertain out-of-town guests can receive Chicago brochures, reserve hotel accommodations and receive trip-planning assistance by calling toll-free 1.877.CHICAGO (1.877.244.2246), or visiting www.explorechicago.org. Brochures and information on Chicago's exciting events and activities are also available at the Visitor Information Centers. The centers are located at Chicago Water Works, 163 East Pearson Street at Michigan Avenue and the Chicago Cultural Center, 77 East Randolph Street. For those calling from outside the United States, Mexico and Canada, please call 1.312.201.8847. The TTY toll-free number for the hearing impaired is 1.866.710.0294.)