Mayor Richard Daley on Wednesday unveiled a new Web site to promote city tourism, an economic engine he said is even more crucial in these tough times.
The interactive site, explorechicago.org, features audio tours, slide shows and video clips. It also highlights timely events, such as winter activities and local celebrations related to next week’s inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama.
“Chicago’s world-class museums, sports, theaters, restaurants and hotels sell themselves,” Daley said. “What we need is far more people to take advantage of all we have to offer.”
It’s hoped that city visitors who use the site will do more while in the city, said Dorothy Coyle, director of the Chicago Office of Tourism.
The city paid about $1.5 million to build the site, and it will cost about $200,000 a year to maintain it, Coyle said. Orbitz, a site partner that will pay the city fees for travel reservations made through a travelchicago.org link, is expected to pay the city about $150,000 a year to defray the cost, she added.
The site went up last summer in a “soft launch” and now is ready for prime time, Coyle said. It arrives as the city is bidding for the 2016 summer Olympics and Obama’s election has raised the city’s international profile, but also during tough times.
In 2007, the last year for which the city has complete figures, more than 46 million visitors pumped more than $11.5 billion into Chicago’s economy. The city’s hospitality industry employs 132,000 people.