Despite violence, tourism is up in Chicago

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CHICAGO–The number of domestic visitors to Chicago hit a record last year, reaching nearly 51 million.

That was close to a 5 percent increase over the previous year.

An announcement Tuesday by Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office said Chicago was one of just three U.S. cities to rack up more than 50 million visitors.

Emanuel’s office said marquee events helped boost the numbers. Those included the NFL Draft and the James Beard Foundation Awards. Both events are returning to Chicago over the coming week. And this summer, Chicago and Lake Michigan will host the America’s Cup. It’s the first time in the sailing competition’s 164-year history that it will be held in a freshwater setting.

The mayor’s office said direct spending by visitors reached an estimated $14.9 billion last year.

Emanuel says he hopes to raise the number of tourists annually to 55 million by 2020.