Tourists have been no strangers to Chicago, with city officials reporting the Windy City welcomed a near-record number 46.2 million visitors last year.
“From its world-class museums and beautiful lakefront to its diverse culture, Chicago offers visitors a truly unique experience,” Gov. Pat Quinn said in a statement issued by the city. “Generating more than $31.8 billion in 2011, I am proud to see Illinois’ robust tourism industry continue to grow and produce record numbers. I encourage travelers both domestic and abroad to visit Chicago and explore the many wonders our great state of Illinois has to offer.”
In addition to overnight leisure travel, the Tribune reports the city saw a bump in business travel. Last year's record is just shy of the pre-recession 2007 record of 46.3 million visitors; on the business side, the city welcomed 7.2 million overnight visitors.
City officials are hoping the promising numbers help "blow away" the old record this year, according to Crain's Chicago Business. Don Welsh, president and CEO of the nonprofit organization that promotes Chicago tourism, Choose Chicago, thinks the brisk numbers are a confirmation that "marketing money, properly used, has an effect."
For fiscal year 2013, Choose Chicago has a budget of $27.6 million, according to the site.
Just as the city announced its positive tourism news, one of the city's most popular attractions announced some staggering figures of its own. On Tuesday. The Sears Willis Tower announced nearly six million people have stepped out onto see-through ledges atop Chicago's tallest building since the attraction first opened in 2009, the Associated Press reports.
According to city officials, Mayor Rahm Emanuel set a goal of 50 million visitors by the year 2020, which would be an increase of more than 10 million visitors from 2010’s total of 39.25 million visitors.