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Will tourists come back?

By Sidney Madden | @sidney_madden_


With masks off, cases down, and the sun out, could things be looking up for tourism in the city? Maybe.

Lynn Osmond, the longtime president of the Chicago Architecture Center, was announced as Choose Chicago’s CEO Wednesday after a months-long search for the city tourism leader. At the forefront of challenges Osmond faces is bringing back the city’s hospitality sector, which has taken a massive hit during the pandemic, Crain’s Chicago reported. 

Occupancy at Chicago’s downtown hotels has dropped as low as 23% earlier this year, compared to 74% in 2019, according to hospitality data firm STR. 

So how can the city’s tourism industry recover? Conventions and public funds are a start.

McCormick Place canceled more than 230 events since March 2020, which would have drawn about 3.4 million attendees to Chicago and had a $3.1 billion economic impact on the city, the Chicago Tribune reported. 

The South Loop convention center has had 80 events since July — including the C2E2 convention this winter — but attendance has been 65% of the projected estimates, according to the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, McCormick Place’s owner. 

And it’s a domino effect: Trade shows have historically accounted for 20% of downtown hotel bookings, according to Choose Chicago data.

Industry leaders want the state to use leftover American Rescue Plan Act funds to put $250 million toward Illinois hotels to rehire workers, WTTW reported.


Mayor Lori Lightfoot joined Chicago Police and CTA last week to announce a $71 million plan to increase security on trains and buses — that is the city’s response to increased reports of violence, unsanitary conditions, and smoking on buses and trains. 

🎧 We talk to John Greenfield from Streetsblog Chicago about his experience riding the Red and Blue lines for 12 hours straight last weekend, and also talked to CTA customers about whether more security will improve their CTA experience.


City Cast’s No. 1 fan Mama T doesn’t remember what she was doing right before COVID-19 shutdowns in March 2020. But she’s done a lot since.

“I’ve made several upgrades to my home, ate and drank more, changed my perspective on quite a few things, and enjoyed JUST BEING.”

Cheers to Mama T, aka Jacoby’s mom, and just being 🥂

What was the last normal thing you did before COVID shutdowns two years ago? Try a new restaurant? Take an impromptu trip? Email, or text/call (773) 780-0246.


▪️ The Illinois Education Labor Relations Board voted 3-2 to keep CPS’ mask-optional policy despite the district’s safety agreement with the Chicago Teachers Union. The board will try to move up the hearing on CTU’s labor complaint from June. [Chalkbeat Chicago]

▪️ Ex-mayoral candidate Willie Wilson is giving out $200,000 worth of free gas in South Deering, Irving Park, and more today. [Block Club Chicago]

▪️ The Cubs and Sox are playing spring training games at 3 p.m. [Sox on 35th]

▪️ Summertime Chi is looking good: Score tickets for Pride in the Park downtown in June, and see dozens of reggaeton stars at Mas Flow in Calumet Heights in July.

▪️ NCAA March Madness brackets are due today, but don’t sleep on your Chicago Collision Bird Migration Madness bracket, either. [WTTW]

▪️ Get an Irish feast for your St. Patrick’s Day dinner ☘️


We’re celebrating our first birthday by sharing some of our most memorable episodes. Host Jacoby Cochran shares his. 

“The Cabrini-Greenseries with the Better Government Association is close to my heart. While the episodes themselves were important, textured, and beautifully produced, what I loved so much was the process.

I did a lot of research, y’all. Watched documentaries, listened to old town halls, read articles and books. I talked to family members who were former residents and organizers who still call the neighborhood home. Got a history lesson from the one and only Natalie Moore. And I walked the row houses and hosted a panel in the community as we discussed what’s next.

Cabrini-Green and the larger history of public housing in Chicago MUST be critically discussed. I am a storyteller by nature and a researcher by trade and this series was an exceptional representation of both.”

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