Home » Destinations & Venues » An In-Depth Analysis of Operation Status and Strategy for Overseas Convention Bureaus That Are Rapidly Rising Lately 1. Chicago

An In-Depth Analysis of Operation Status and Strategy for Overseas Convention Bureaus That Are Rapidly Rising Lately 1. Chicago

As convention industry goes from the competition among individual companies to that among networks, we witness the growing role of convention bureaus which operate with various stakeholder of the convention industry as its members. Accordingly, major convention cities are intensifying their investment in the organization, manpower, and budget for their convention bureaus, and some convention bureaus are rising in this novel trend. They are Choose Chicago, a city marketing agency for Chicago that has been reborn as a powerful organization by combining two agencies lately, Tourism Montreal, Montreal’s tourism & convention organization that boasts a history of about a hundred years, and BESydney, Sydney’s convention agency that induces continuous government investment with the greatest ever performance.
In this article, we take an in-depth look at the operation status of these overseas convention bureaus, which are focusing on strengthening their abilities to create demand. We hope that this will start discussion designed to strengthen the competitiveness of the domestic convention bureau, which has insufficient resources available compared to advanced overseas counterparts, such as organization, manpower, and budget. It is because one cannot expect sustainable growth for Korea’s convention industry without beefing up the competitiveness of the domestic convention industry, while the entire world is increasing investment for strengthening the capability of the convention industry.


1. ‘Choose Chicago’ for Chicago
2. ‘BESydney’ for Sydney
3. ‘Tourism Montreal’ for Montreal

1. Chicago

Choose Chicago that takes care of Chicago marketing
As a private non-profit organization, Choose Chicago handles sales and marketing for the city of Chicago and McCormick Place based on its agreement with the city of Chicago and Metropolitan Pier Expo Authority (MPEA). Choose Chicago was officially selected in 2012 as Destination Management Organization (DMO) for the city of Chicago, and works to recruit and support business and leisure tourists from across Korea and abroad with a view to creating economic benefits for the city of Chicago, local community, and related companies. Major decisions at Choose Chicago are made through its directors, while its actual operation is undertaken by a dedicated staff of 90 or more people. 2013 budget for Choose Chicago was 2.76 million dollars (29.3 billion won), which was funded by private and public sectors.

Three projects for Choose Chicago
The frist project that was implemented by Choose Chicago was to become able to effectively respond to visitors’ requests by improving the technological and esthetic infrastructure of Visitor Information Center of Chicago. And by organizing visitor supporting ambassadors, support is now made available for visitors any time. The second project is about installing offices in major overseas markets such as Brazil, Japan, and Belgium in order to support the recruiting of international tourists. The eighth office has been opened in Brazil and Benelux, while locally carried out aggressive marketing and support services hosted the NATO Summit. The third project was about increasing Choose Chicago’s exposure to major target areas in the US. For this, television commercials and digital campaigns were created and broadcast, while they also established relationships with media, and created and distributed Chicago’s official guidebook for visitors.

Choose Chicago Operation Status: Choose Chicago run by private and government specialists

Board of Directors ? with total 42 private-sector and government experts including 4 executives in the secretariat and 38 board members
The board of directors of Choose Chicago has total 42 persons including 4 executives for its secretariat and 38 board members. The four executives at its secretariat are Chair Desiree Rogers, who is CEO of Johnson Publishing Co., Vice Chair Gillian Darlow, who is CEO of Polk Bros. Foundation, Treasurer Lou Raizin, who is President of Broadway in Chicago, and Secretary Patrick Donelly, who is General Manager of Hyatt Regency Chicago, all of whom are private business people operating in Chicago. It has total 38 directors, including 18 of them from the public sector and 20 of them from the private sector. The directors from the public sector include 11 of them from the government and public institutions and 7 of them from associations and foundations, while those from the private sector include 12 of them from the tourism industry such as hotels, travel agents, and airliners and 8 of them from ordinary companies. Overall, the board of directors is led by the public sector with participation from the private sector.

Meeting professionals register a high percentage with 25 (31.2%) of total 78 persons
The working staff for Choose Chicago has 78 persons in the seven divisions of Client Services, Marketing, Tourism, Partnership, Executive, Media, and Meeting Professionals. Among them, Meeting Professionals is organized with staff in charge of sales to the meeting industry, and its 25 persons take up 32.1% of the entire staff of the institution (78 persons) and its job descriptions are specifically classified into target markets and regions. With its work system specialized in specific markets such as exhibitions, meetings for associations, corporate meetings, and SMERF among others, the organization can be rated as very efficient to fulfil the goals and objectives of Choose Chicago.

Steady increase in budget and rising contribution to regional economy
The visitors’ annual spending in Chicago amounts to several billion dollars, and the revenue for the regional economy greatly contributes to creation of new business opportunities in Chicago such as creating jobs and growing the regional economy. The operating fund for Choose Chicago, which provides marketing and supports for it, comes from the public sector (71%) and the private sector (29%). The public fund is divided into the fund from the Illinois state government (34%) and airport tax (37%), while the private fund is divided into a fund from MPEA, the owner of McCormick Place (8% of center sales marketing fund), member fees (13%), and others (8% in fees, sponsorships, funds, and donations). In 2013, the total budget for Choose Chicago was 27.6 million dollars, up a whomping 55% (9.8 million dollars) from 17.8 million dollars in 2012. And this is because the state and local governments added a fund of 9.6 million dollars as part of their strategy to develop the Chicago economy.

Chicago hotel industry occupancy rate growing for 3 straight years
An analysis of Chicago hotel occupancy rates showed growth for 3 straight years in Average Daily Rate (ADR), Hotel occupancy, and Revenue Per Available Room (RevPAR). This performance shows the area’s relative advantage over the other parts of America. By indicator, hotel occupancy, which is a major indicator showing Chicago’s growth in tourism, registered 75.2%, up 3% from 72.2% in 2011 while ADR registered $187.27, 5.6% up from $177.33 in 2001. RevPAR registered $140.76, up 10% from $127.94 in 2011. The number of the hotels and rooms in Chicago steadily increased with 84 hotels and 30,547 rooms available in 2012. And the area for the meeting facilities owned by the hotels amounts to 1,449,149 ft2 (134,630㎡). With the city adding 4,500 hotel rooms to what it had in 2007, Chicago came to have 1.6 million more rooms for sale and 1.2 million more rooms were actually sold. On the other hand, with local hotel tax raised by 1% in 2012, Chicago hotel tax revenue registered 26 million dollars, up 35% from 2011.

Sales & Marketing: Chicago sales through Integrated Marketing Communication (IMC)

Choose Chicago sells Chicago as a travel destination with its exquisitely prepared strategy for integrated marketing, and for this purpose, conducts various tasks such as direct sales, advertising, tourism & convention industry exhibition, Internet promotion, email promotion, website, podcast, e-newsletter, visitor’s guide, brochure, PR strategy, press tour, FAM tour for customers, and preliminary tour. Besides, Choose Chicago is running two Visitor Information Centers and has Chicago Information Support Guide.

① Recruiting a sales specialist and conducting area-specific sales marketing that fits demand
Appointing industry’s sales specialist as new sales division head
Newly appointed as sales service head for Choose Chicago in December 2012, Bradley Kent has worked to strengthen the capabilities of Choose Chicago by securing sales program and profits, upgrading market share, and advancing into new market. Having worked for six earlier years as a business development and sales specialist at audiovisual & exhibition division of Freeman, he returned to the Chicago’s dedicated marketing agency. He is a sales specialist who worked for 26 earlier years to perform duties at front desk and as a team leader in the hotel industry.

Conducting area-specific sales marketing that fits demand
Improving the facilities of McCormick Place is rated as having contributed greatly to enhancing the MICE market’s loyalty to Chicago. For example, agencies hosting association meetings such as national restaurant association and manufacturing technology association have affirmed their commitment to holding future events in Chicago. Corporate meeting planning individuals and companies asses potential demand for events hosted by Chicago through establishing relationships with Chicago-based companies. Demand for events related to manufacturing and medicine also shows favorable prospects, and this may be owing to the city’s good accessibility which attracts participants. On the other hand, the nationally well-reputed service providers from Chicago’s exhibition & convention industry are exerting themselves to create unique and memorable experiences for consumers and partner companies.

② Managing member companies and strengthening networking
Managing 1,200 members ? clearly demonstrating effects on the regional economy with total 128,000 jobs, a direct spending of 12 billion dollars, and a tax revenue of 725 million dollars created by member organizations
Choose Chicago has total 1,200 companies in its membership, mos of which are operators that play a crucial role in the region’s visitor support industry. With its member organizations creating total 128,000 jobs, a direct spending of 12 billion dollars, and a tax revenue of 725 million dollars, the business activities of the members contribute hugely to creating economic effects in the region. For this, the Membership Department of Choose Chicago has developed and operated various programs designed to provide wide-ranging services such as visitor marketing solution, networking opportunity, and diverse support activities.
In March 2012, Choose Chicago designated a third organization that would take charge of market survey in order to help enhance professionalism in job performance and revitalize the business projects for its member companies. The survey agency is conducting a market survey to maximize the economic operations of Chicago area businesses and institutions related to visitor industry and is going to tap into its member company management model in upgrading the value of the services provided to member companies, create new benefits, and recruit more members.

Official marketing partners ? establishing partnership with various global companies specialized in aviation, card, travel booking, lodging booking etc.
Since it launched in 2012, Choose Chicago has created and run official marketing partnership with organizations that contribute much to the city of Chicago and help achieve goals of Choose Chicago. They clearly understand the potential of the visitor industry in Chicago and contribute to the growth of the city’s visitor industry and the upgrade of the city brand with more interesting and novel factors. Its major member companies include American Airlines (an airliner), United Airlines (an airliner), American Express (a credit card company), Orbitz (travel booking service), and on Pitt (lodging booking service). Of these, the airlines greatly contribute to the excellent accessibility of Chicago by developing and operating direct flights to a number of cities of the world by playing up the globally significant advantage of the city with its two international airports.

Holding events designed to promote networking among its member companies
The 2012 events held by Choose Chicago with participation of its members contributed to solidifying the advantages of Chicago and reinforcing the relationships among its members and local community by consolidating the coherence between the region’s stakeholders and local community. For instance, by holding in February 2012 the 2nd Chicago Restaurant Week, Choose Chicago created an opportunity to increase exposure to the business of the exhibitors by recruiting 1,400 participants. And in May of the same year, it held Hug Chicago 2), a new event sponsored by Tom Rickets, the chairman of Chicago Cubs, affiliated with the Central Division of Major League Baseball’s National League, through which it sought the development of the regional economy all the while aiming at goodwill, improvement, and reconciliation among the leaders of entertainment industry community throughout Chicago. In June, it held Chicago Classic Golf Outing and thereby provided an opportunity to build up networking among the industry’s stakeholders.

③ Strengthening strategic PR and digital marketing activities
Conducting marketing specific to target markets through cooperation with traveling writers and media (in the US and abroad)
The PR team at the head office of Choose Chicago cooperates with its nine worldwide branches to keep up its unique promotional campaign that fits local conditions. For this purpose, Choose Chicago conducts marketing specific to target markets through cooperation with influential traveling writers and media to remind people of the importance and attraction of Chicago.

Strengthening the basis for digital amrekting through rebuilding its website
Choose Chicago runs ChooseChicago.com as a key basis for its digital marketing. To reinvigorate the site, Choose Chicago stopped in January 2013 the operation of its old webpage, ExploreChicago.org., and registered a hike of 93% in connection as compared to January 2012 by presenting the new webpage filled with various and complex contents. The webpage of Choose Chicago serves as a channel that attracts worldwide visitors to Chicago, and its basic role should lie in upgrading the recognition of Chicago. For this purpose, Choose Chicago is running as part of its diverse website-based digital marketing campaign Search Engine Optimization (SEO) campaign, digital advertisement, the blog of Chicago Like a Local, email newsletter, and social media. Also, it has developed Choose Chicago mobile app to improve the support services for local activities of visitors and also serve as a promotional tool for member companies.

④ Supporting tourism-linked promotion & marketing activities through the operation and strategic utilization of visitor support center
Visitor Support Center, which came to have its independent functions strengthened with the launch of Choose Chicago, was a space prepared to create technological and esthetic infrastructure that could respond to visitors’ requests and provide support services in such software as manpower and information supply with a view to upgrading Chicago’s cultural status and attract more visitors. It is located in two locations of Chicago Cultural Center and Chicago Water Works, and it runs Chicago Information Guide teams to perform its actual operations. As tourism ambassadors who support visitors, they carry and use iPads to promptly and accurately respond to the tourists’ needs, and a tally has it that they support 39,000 visitors a year.


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