WORLD ROUTES: Choose Chicago for Network Success

Don Welsh, chief executive officer of Choose Chicago, the official destination and marketing organisation for Chicago, is confident that “the most American city in the US” will wow World Routes delegates.

Don Welsh, chief executive officer of Choose Chicago, the official destination and marketing organisation for Chicago, is confident that “the most American city in the US” will wow World Routes delegates.  He spoke to our sister publication, Routes News, ahead of the event.

Q) Why is hosting World Routes 2014 good for Chicago?
A) "Tourism is a vital, essential part of Chicago’s economic strategy. Hosting World Routes 2014 is an important component of a proactive strategy to achieve Mayor Emanuel’s goal for increased visitation from across the globe."

Q) What do you hope to gain from the experience?
A) "Working together with the Chicago Department of Aviation, we intend to deliver a successful conference and memorable experience for every delegate. Of course, we also hope that we will secure additional routes from existing airline partners and develop relationships and ultimately new routes with new airlines."

Q) What role does aviation play in Chicago’s economy?
A) "Airlift is critical to Chicago’s economic development efforts. Chicago is North America’s only dual-hub for commercial air travel. Two international airports within miles of downtown Chicago connect the city with the rest of the world. With more than 1,400 non-stop daily flights from O’Hare and Midway, including 127 daily departures to 62 global destinations, Chicago is one of the leading transportation hubs in the world."

Q) What has driven Chicago’s visitor growth in recent years?
A) "Overnight leisure visitation to the city has increased 37% in the past five years, with 2013 surpassing the 2012 peak at a record 18.65 million visitors, a gain of 3.8%. Seasonal, regional marketing campaigns fuelled a leisure visitation record of 36.6 million in 2013, a gain of 5.8%, surpassing 2012’s peak of 34.7 million."

Q) How is Chicago innovating its tourism product?
A) "Through co-ordinated investments and marketing, our new tourism strategy is reaping significant dividends in job creation and economic activity. Continued investment in neighbourhood tourism strategies, new iconic ventures (like boats for architectural river cruises and most recently the TILT experience at the Hancock Center), and an enhanced global marketing campaign continue to attract more tourists." 

Q) What does the city offer as a conference and convention destination?
A) "Chicago offers an incredible variety of unique venues and elite services, as well as unmatched entertainment and cultural options and a Michelin-rated dining scene. Home to McCormick Place, the Western Hemisphere’s largest convention centre, there is no denying that Chicago is the most customer-friendly meeting and convention destination in the US."

Q) What is the biggest misconception about Chicago?
A) One of the larger misconceptions I have encountered is that we are a two-food city – pizza and hot dogs. While we do both equally well, we have one of the most dynamically diverse culinary communities in the world.

Q) What are your key targets?
A) "In line with Mayor Emanuel’s goals, our targets are to increase visitation to 55 million visitors yearly by 2020; book 2.3 million room nights and 50 new meetings/conventions into Chicago annually; and elevate Chicago to among the top five US cities for inbound international travel by 2020."

Q) If you weren’t CEO of Choose Chicago, what would you be doing?
A) "My management style is largely based on a sports mentality, and I find music to be incredibly important and motivating; so something in either music or sports."

Routes News

This article originally appeared in our sister magazine, Routes News.

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