Mayor sets sights on winter tourism in Chicago - New York News

Mayor sets sights on winter tourism in Chicago

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Mayor Emanuel invited the world's artists and designers on Wednesday to propose new ways to light up Chicago at night.

Additionally, he vowed to make the city the number one place in North America to celebrate the Chinese New Year.

His goal – to attract tourists, especially in Chicago's dead of winter slow season.

The first-ever, citywide Chinese New Year celebration, for example, will kick off January 31st and last until Valentine's Day, Feb. 14th.

While Chicago will have to wait to see if the new festival will bring tourists, Chicago tourism is on a surprising roll, drawing millions of new visitors last year, who generated thousands of new jobs.

Thirteen months ago, Prime Electrical & Exhibition Services didn't exist. It now employs several dozen electricians, plumbers and other workers. It's become the third largest service provider for trade shows at Navy Pier and McCormick Place, both now booming.

"More shows, more tourists means more work. So, more work means more money for everybody and more opportunity," said Charles Nicosia, owner of Prime Electrical & Exhibition Services.

After receiving 40 million visitors in 2011, Chicago hosted 46 million in 2013.

The billions they spend supports about 175,000 jobs, and, in turn, the strong growth has triggered a hotel construction boom. From 30,000 hotel rooms, the city's jumped to about 40,000. Despite that expansion, last year's 75 percent occupancy rate was the highest ever.

Chicago virtually sells itself in the summertime.

The challenge is to draw visitors in the slower, winter months.

At a presentation today, the mayor said the 100th anniversary of the founding of Chinatown on the Near South Side might help to lure visitors from mainland China to mark the Chinese New Year.

"As part of my effort to attract more tourists from China, last month I traveled there and had a meeting, as we did, with the head of tourism and a number of tourism services. And now we have three offices in China, all promoting tourists to come here to the City of Chicago," Mayor Emanuel said.

Emanuel wants a new look for Chicago at night beginning with the Riverwalk, which is now under construction along a revitalizing Chicago River.

"We're seeking proposals from teams of the greatest artists, architects, engineers and designers, as you can see here, to light up our buildings, our parks, our roads and our open spaces. And it will start at the river, but extend all through the city," Mayor Emanuel said.

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