Updated: Feb 21
Faced with the unexpected effects of COVID-19, the tourism and hospitality industry has been one of the hardest hit sectors in Chicago. As the pandemic began, Choose Chicago wanted to proactively get ahead of planning for what recovery could look like for the industry once the City of Chicago and surrounding area had started to reopen. They decided it would require the launch of a program that would provide impacted businesses and cultural institutions the platform to partner and support one another as they worked to rebound their business.
The Results: Our team kicked off the program development process by identifying key opinion leaders among Choose Chicago’s partners that represented a variety of areas in the tourism and hospitality industry. We leveraged the key opinion leaders by hosting a series of focus groups that, ultimately, provided us with direction on program mission, priorities, messaging and activities. The program became known as, Tourism and Hospitality Forward. From there, we developed materials to support the socialization and launch of the program with Choose Chicago leadership and members including:
Formalized key messages
Program overview presentations
Program executive summary
Annual meeting speeches
Annual meeting presentation content
Program launch press release
In addition to producing materials for the launch, we also supported Choose Chicago’s leaders as they prepared for and presented the program publicly for the first time at their Annual Meeting. We also conducted media outreach around the announcement and secured a positive interview with the Chicago Sun-Times. Since the program’s launch, there are over 500 active members that participate in program activities. We have coordinated a series of webinars that are intended to support businesses in the tourism and hospitality industry by hosting panels that address issues related to doing business during and post-pandemic.
Most recently, our team helped position Choose Chicago as a premier destination that prioritizes the safety of the city's residents and citizens in the media. Our efforts secured placements around Choose Chicago's unveiling of an A.I. chatbot created with the help of Northwestern students, morale-boosting summer tourism numbers—and perhaps the crowned jewel of them all—Condé Nast Traveler recognized Chicago as the "#1 Best Big City In The U.S." for the fifth year in a row. The last placement was paired with an event celebrating the city's hospitality workers and the return of theater to Chicago. The cast of "RENT" dazzled guests, the likes of which ranged from Chicago's First Lady, Amy Eshleman, to Illinois Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton.
"There’s no place quite like Chicago in the summertime, even during a surge of coronavirus cases tied to the Delta variant. That much is evident from the barrage of encouraging news about the city’s rebounding tourism and hospitality industries disclosed Wednesday by Choose Chicago."
"Choose Chicago, the city’s tourism bureau, is administering the Alfresco program and recently named Little Village one of 10 neighborhoods it is promoting through a new neighborhood tourism initiative. A product of the COVID-19 task force spearheading the city’s recovery, the program is investing $800,000 to fund social media and other marketing efforts highlighting Chicago’s neighborhoods."
"Earlier in September 2021, Choose Chicago, the city’s tourism board, announced the release of a new AI-powered tool named “The Bean” that is operating through Choose Chicago’s website. Accessible 24/7, this digital version of “The Bean” serves as a visitor’s guide where it can answer common questions from out of towners."
"NASCAR will bring the Windy City 200 virtual race to Chicago streets this summer, providing a potential "sneak peek" into how a live street race would look in the future, city officials announced."