OAK LAWN, Ill. | When Bruce Rauner, a principal of a venture capital firm, first took over the chairmanship of a group that promotes Chicago-area tourism, he couldn’t get over just how little money was spent on marketing the city to out-of-towners.
Rauner, chairman of the Choose Chicago group since 2010, on Wednesday told a luncheon of the Chicago Southland Convention & Visitors Bureau how Indianapolis had up to 10 percent more money to market its public image compared to Chicago.
“They had a higher budget than we did,” Rauner said, adding that New York was spending about five times the amount of money on marketing that Chicago did. “That has to change.”
Rauner told the gathering of officials – which included village presidents Norm Abbott of Lansing, Eugene Williams of Lynwood and Don DeGraff of South Holland – that increasing marketing would result in more tourists coming to the Chicago-area, which could also result in more jobs.
He said his organization is trying to bolster the number of annual visitors from the 43.6 million who came in 2011 to 56.9 million by 2020 – which Rauner claimed could create up to 65,000 new jobs at hotels and other businesses that cater to tourists.
Another goal that Choose Chicago has is to bolster the number of international tourists who come to the Second City. Currently, Chicago ranks 10th in the United States in terms of foreign visitors.
“They don’t know us. We don’t communicate with them,” Rauner said, adding that international visitors, “spend thousands (of dollars) more, and stay longer than domestic tourists do.”
Rauner also said his organization wants to work to attract more sports events to Chicago – which he thinks would bolster the number of visitors to the metropolitan area. In some cases, he wants to have existing sports events such as the annual Big 10 basketball tournament played each February in Indianapolis transfer the location to Chicago.
“We’re the greatest sports city in the world,” he said. “We’re going to start stealing sports events.”
To that end, Rauner said his group wants to work with Chicago city officials for construction of an indoor, multi-purpose stadium to complement the existing sports stadiums that exist in Chicago. Although he said his group does not have a specific stadium plan in mind, or any idea how construction would be paid for.
Rauner said he includes Northwest as a part of the Chicago area that would benefit by the metropolitan area’s further success.
“We have one economy,” he said. “We all win when one of us achieves some success.”
The Chicago Southland CVB also handed out awards as part of its annual meeting and luncheon at the Hilton Chicago/Oak Lawn. Among the winners was Monica Yanez, front desk manager at the Sleep Inn – Lansing, who was honored as 2012 Manager of the Year.
The Illinois Lincoln Highway Coalition was honored with the Award of Merit for bringing attention to the communities along the 25 miles of Lincoln Highway that runs through the Chicago Southland.
Terri Winfree, vice president of community and economic development at Prairie State College in Chicago Heights was given the Linda Morgan Award for Volunteerism.