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CHICAGO (WLS) — Chicago had a huge weekend in terms of foot traffic and the best hotel occupancy and revenue the city has ever seen last weekend thanks to a healthcare conference and Taylor Swift.
While leaders say weekend visitors have really ramped up, weekday downtown foot traffic may still be lagging from pre-pandemic levels.
The sounds of summer can be heard in the city, with Chicagoans like 3-year-old Mina, and tourists from oversees, alike.
“It’s gorgeous! It’s a really nice city, so it is. We did the boat tour this morning,” said Deirdre Gallagher, an Irish tourist.
“I’ve never been to Chicago before, but we were just sayin’ it’s probably my favorite U.S. city so far, and I’m not just saying that. We love it here,” Scottish tourist Jess Faulds said.
Many were out in full force Friday at Blues Fest.
And weekends in the city have way out-performed pre-pandemic numbers, Choose Chicago CEO Lynn Osmond said.
“I mean it was amazing. The city was 97% sold out, which basically means it was sold out,” Osmond said.
The Illinois Hotel and Lodging Association agreed, saying last weekend set all-time records for hotel rooms sold and revenue. And conferences, conventions and leisure travel are back.
“Last week was not only our best weekend since the pandemic, it was the best weekend in Chicago history for hotel performance,” said Michael Jacobson, president and CEO of the Illinois Hotel and Lodging Association.
But Jacobson said Chicago, along with the rest of the country, could use more hotel staff, with about 1,600 positions open right now in the city.
“The wait times might be a little longer, but ultimately the guests shouldn’t see a stark difference in the services they’re provided,” Jacobson said.
In terms of foot traffic, Chicago Loop Alliance CEO Michael Edwards said the last few weekends have been up 20% compared to before the pandemic.
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“State Street and the Loop in general has been extremely busy, a lot of it on the weekends, but the office worker seems to be coming back,” Edwards said.
But while there have been solid near pre-pandemic foot traffic work weeks, they’re still averaging around 50% of 2019, which Edwards said speaks to a changing office culture.
“Maybe they’re only going to come back at 80%; you know, downtown is changing. We’ve got 46,000 people that live down here in the Loop. They’re on the streets; they’re here into the evening,” Edwards said.
It’s also why you may see fewer water taxis winding their day down the river weekdays.
But, for summer fun, you can’t beat Chicago, with so much ahead: Sail GP, NASCAR, Lollapalooza and great views.
“It’s just so nice to have a mix of city, water, beach. It’s just lovely,” Faulds said.
Choose Chicago said the city was just named No. 1 for conventions in April and May in the country.
But that work week is the question.
Normally, you’d see regular Wendella commuter water taxi services. They’re not starting just yet because of those lower work week numbers.
They’re considering only running Tuesday through Thursday, or rush hour only, when they do start back up later this summer or fall.