Chicago top Labor Day destination
August 30, 2013 (CHICAGO) (WLS) -- Chicago is a popular destination this holiday weekend.
A new report ranks Chicago right behind New York City as the nation's top tourist spot and new information shows Chicago hotels raked in $1 billion in the first seven months of this year.
People around the country and around the world are suddenly spending more money to travel. And a big chunk of those tourism dollars are ending up in Chicago.
Don't be surprised if North Michigan Avenue seems more crowded than usual this weekend. The travel website Priceline.com ranks Chicago, after New York, as the nation's second most-visited city during the Labor Day weekend.
"Chicago has a great reputation," said Stephanie Venezini, from Philadelphia. "Everyone that I know from home who's been here has loved it, gone to school here and loved it."
"I think it's gorgeous," said Fairfax, Virginia's Rey Gade. "I went to the Sears Tower before and everything's really tall and I just like it all."
And the visitors like Craig Cain and Liz Snape of London have come from all over the world.
"I can compare it to London and I would rank this equally as good and dare I say better," Cain said.
"I've been to New York, as well, and I like this just as much, maybe even a bit more," said Snape.
Chicago's tourism office, now called Choose Chicago, confirms sharp increases in room occupancy that's led to a hotel building boom downtown.
"Right now I believe we have more new hotels under development than almost any city in the country," said Don Welsh, Choose Chicago.
Welsh credits McCormick reforms for attracting more conventions, and ten recently-opened overseas offices to promote Chicago tourism.
"So we have presence now within China, within Europe, within South America that we never had before," Welsh said.
Despite new jobs generated by the boom, Chicago's 10.3 percent unemployment rate remains the highest among the nation's top ten cities.
Meanwhile, the city's reputation for violent crime did not frighten away those we talked to this afternoon.
"I heard about the whole like, schools shutting down and multiple deaths this last summer from gang violence, things like that, gangster disciples. But it didn't make a difference. I mean, I don't expect to be in those areas," Gade said.
Tourism experts agree that most tourists and conventioneers do not experience or more importantly spend money in areas other than downtown.
So the economic impact of tourism varies from one area in the city to another.
local, charles thomas
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