As Chicago regains tourism spotlight, hotels hope for occupancy boost

Chicago News

CHICAGO – Chicago is regaining its tourism spotlight following a pandemic-induced absence.

This weekend, McCormick Place will welcome 8,000 girls and their families for the Nike Tournament of Champions, the venue’s first big event since the pandemic. As a result, locals will see more tourists downtown and restaurants and hotels are gearing up. 

“The number of teams that registered this year is nearly the same as when we hosted it in 2019,” said Kara Bachman, with the Chicago Sports Commission. “So obviously, that is telling us that the demand is still there. That parents are feeling safe and comfortable with bringing their young daughters and families and siblings as well to our city.”

The 50 courts and 672 teams will give locals a glimpse of the return of tourism to the Chicago area. Places like the Sheraton Hotel are banking on big events to make up for time lost.

“We are a long way from recovery but this is a great step,” said Mark Lauer. “The Auto Show in a few weeks is the next big step.”  

Last weekend served as a good indicator of whether Chicago can handle tourism post-pandemic. 

This past Saturday, for July 4 weekend, the occupancy rate downtown hit 69.4% – inching closer to the mid 80% mark that hotels have traditionally seen in years past.

“There’s not been a hesitancy. There’s a great demand,” Lauer said. “Again, where we’re located, the questions I get every weekend [are] ‘Where’s Navy Pier? ‘Where’s Millennium Park?’ ‘Where’s Mag Mile?'”  

The next big convention expected to boost Chicago area hotels and restaurants is the Auto Show in a few weeks. More than 120 events are scheduled at McCormick Place over the next year and a half. 

Reprensatitives think they’ll be back to normal levels by next summer. 

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