By: Rocio Guzman

Chicago is the third-most populated city in the US, after Los Angeles and New York, with over 2.7 million people in 2016. The city represents the third-largest metropolitan economy in the US, with USD643 billion, and an average GDP growth of 1.7% in 2016. According to the Global Financial Centres Index (GFCI), which examines the major financial centres’ global competitiveness, Chicago stood in sixth place in North America, and 11th worldwide in 2016. The Chicago region’s workforce is highly educated. A proportion of the population with a bachelor’s degree exceeds the country’s average. The metro area is home to several world class undergraduate and graduate educational institutions.

Smart city innovations

In August 2016 the programme The Array of Things (AoT) was launched in Chicago. AoT is an urban sensing project, a network of interactive, modular sensor boxes to be installed around the city to collect real-time data on the environment, infrastructure, and activity for research and public use. It will serve as a “fitness tracker”, measuring factors that impact liveability in Chicago, such as climate, air quality and noise. The nodes will be mounted on streetlight traffic signal poles around the city, with an expected 500 nodes installed by the end of 2018.

Ventra is an electronic fare payment system for the Chicago Transit Authority, which replaced the Chicago card in 2013. In 2015 the Ventra app rollout allowed for users to pay for rides on the city’s three main transit systems through their smartphones, modernising the antiquated paper ticket fare-collection system. Customers can buy mobile tickets and receive notifications when a recharge is required, or when unlimited-ride passes are close to expiry. The Transit Tracker feature enables customers to view schedules and arrival times on all transit systems.

Tourism board strategy and competitive position

Formed in 2012, Choose Chicago is the official marketing organisation in charge of tourism for Chicago. Combined efforts from the agency and government have set a 55 million visitor goal by 2020.  In 2015, Chicago’s first advertising campaign named “Epic” launched to market Chicago as a destination outside its traditional source countries in Europe. In collaboration with the Illinois Office of Tourism and other institutions, the “Epic” campaign launched in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. The campaign which runs through spring, summer and autumn, saw it’s first important results during 2016, increasing trips by 419,000, with an economic impact of USD442 million.  According to Strategic Marketing and Research Insights (SMARInsights), in 2016, Choose Chicago’s winter marketing campaign and strategic media, which included a mix of TV ads, online video, digital display and social media, reached +5.9 million households and generated 588,000 trips to Chicago.  The winter 2016 campaign named “Cures for Cabin Fever” had the strongest economic impact to date, with USD545 million, targeting audiences in Illinois (outside of Chicago), Indiana, Wisconsin, Iowa, Ohio, Michigan and Missouri. The campaigned highlighted special events such as Chicago Restaurant Week, Chicago Theatre Week and Chinese New Year.

In-destination activities

One of Chicago’s most visited attractions is the 3,300-foot Navy Pier, which recorded 9.6 million visitors during 2016. In 2017 the pier celebrates its 100th anniversary, unveiling on-going redevelopment, including a completed Polk Bros Park and The Yard at Chicago Shakespeare Theater. It also introduces a free, year-round programming, including Impulse, a temporary art installation and Exhibitionism – The Rolling Stones, a major exhibit featuring artefacts from the iconic band, and a pier-wide PRIDE celebration to celebrate the LGBT community.  The Skydeck is located in the Willis Tower landmark and offers a 50-mile view from the 103rd floor. The attraction also includes a “ledge” which are glass cubes are suspended at 1,353 feet, allowing an unobstructed downward view. This saw 1.7 million visitors during 2016.

Chicago will continue to be well known for its’ cultural scene and being home to world famous museums, parks, and sculptures. The government also has a mindset to improve the quality of life for Chicago’s residents by utilizing technology. This allows for the city to become an attractive destination for tourists. Choose Chicago’s marketing strategies are aiming to reach 55 million visitors by 2022. This will create jobs and investment opportunities in the tourism segment.

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