Chicago Searching For International Tourists. Have You Visited?

Halloween is less than one week away!  What comes to mind when I think of this blessed holiday is where I had the most fun.  Two destinations come to mind. Ogunquit, Maine and Chicago.

Ogunquit will always live in my head as one of the best times I could ever have on the last day of October.  So many friends, so many costumes, and so many empty glasses.  I always have to thank the staff of Mainestreet for an amazing time, for letting me know who I may have taken down on the dance floor when those heels didn't work as well as I thought they would, for trying to coax me out of a bathroom stall at 2:30 AM with a bottle of water (you should have tried pizza), and for picking up the pieces of my costumes the next morning from all corners of the bar.  Not all Halloweens there have ended with my liver giving up, but all of them have been fun.

The other city that holds a place in my heart for epic an Halloween is Chicago.  My roommate and I didn't know what to expect when we landed in the windy city.  Needless to say and pun intended, we were blown away.  It seemed the city was on a 4-day candy corn sugar high that year and costumes were everywhere on everyone for the whole time we were there.  The Halloween energy was so on, we had to go buy more costumes to add to the ones we brought to cover our 4-day visit.  We rocked our costumes, had an amazing time, and met some wonderful hospitable men.

I've been back to Ogunquit, Maine several times off and on season and I have some good friends and some wonderful acquaintances.  I tried to recreate the love and magic that was Chicago on a couple of return visits, but it just didn't click.  Yes those trips were more business / education oriented and not all pure adult fun.  But the spark wasn't there.  Did the wind blow it out?  I think I need to return to the city when there's a festival or something and I'm not working.

And that seems to be a problem Chicago is having right now, getting people to visit.  Many individuals I talk to about Chicago say Boystown (if you go there for the gay life) is changing quite a bit and moving north, spreading out.  It's still fun to go to, but it's changing.  They also add that the guys don't come out when it's cooler,winter, which is like 7 months out of the year.  Is this true Chicagoans? 

I am not sure if there is a Chicago tourism board looking to boost the amount of gay travelers to the city, but in a recent Skift.com article titled, "Chicago Struggles to Attract the International Tourists It Knows It Needs," the city knows it has a tourist problem, but is more so looking for International tourists to fill the void. 

 

Chicago may have peaked a little early as a tourist destination — by more than a century.

The city drew 12 million visitors, then about one-fifth of the U.S. population, to the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition celebrating the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s arrival in America. The extravaganza in a boggy swamp near Lake Michigan was a defining moment for an ascendant metropolis.

Since then, the middle-America city has struggled to compete for tourists, especially from overseas. Chicago ranks ninth for non-U.S.-resident visits, well behind New York and Los Angeles, as well as smaller locales such as Miami.

“There was never a focus, for decades, from Chicago on the international market,” said Don Welsh, chief executive officer of Choose Chicago, the city’s tourism agency. “It was so focused on the convention business and the regional business.”

As poet Carl Sandburg wrote in 1914, Chicago was “Hog Butcher for the World, Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat.” Those jobs are gone. That’s why Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, counting on his ties to Washington and Hollywood, is trying to boost tourism by courting two new museums offering jarring contrasts – – one featuring Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia, the other Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle.

Emanuel’s push for Obama’s presidential library and a museum for filmmaker George Lucas, 70, is fresh evidence of travelers’ growing importance to cities around the globe. International tourism in the U.S. alone grew to $200 billion in 2012 from $150 billion in 2009, according to the World Bank. - skift.com

 

Do you think a library and a museum will draw in the international travelers?

What should they be considering in addition to two new "quiet zones" in the city? 

What exciting energetic things should Chicago consider?

Will a World Series Trophy increase visitors?

Should they look at the international gay travelers, too?

I do want to give Chicago another go.  It's too late to pack my bags for Halloween Part II, The Windy City Sequel, but I do want to get my bones back there, to Boystown, and to other parts of the city.