Showing off Chicago to the World

Chicago showed itself off to full advantage during this month's IPW travel industry trade show and marketplace. Here's the booth Choose Chicago sponsored at  McCormick Place, IPW's main site. (Adam Alexander Photography)

An international trade show puts Windy City’s cool factor on full display.

Earlier this month, more than 6,000 travel buyers, suppliers and journalists from across the United States – and from more than 70 countries around the world – descended upon the Windy City’s McCormick Place for the U.S. Travel Association’s 46th annual IPW. Formerly known to folks in the travel world as International Pow Wow, it’s essentially a massive marketplace designed to sell influencers on the United States as a travel destination.

And since Chicago was playing host to the largest travel industry trade show in North America, we dressed up and the city off as a pretty amazing travel destination in itself. IPW guests and journalists were treated to a huge range of Chicago neighborhood tours. Visits to our stunning cultural attractions, fabulous restaurants and entertainment options and sweeping views of the Chicago skyline.

The West Side’s Cinespace Chicago Film Studios was transformed into a venue that highlighted the city’s happening arts scene, diverse communities and architectural wonders (and R&B/soul singer Janelle Monáe performed). Our own Museum of Science and Industry closed the show with a ‘block party’ that was a virtual love letter to Chicago neighborhoods from Pilsen and Devon Avenue to Wicker Park/Bucktown to the Mag Mile. South Side native Jennifer Hudson took the stage to help her hometown celebrate itself.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Travel Association's 46th Annual IPW -- a massive travel industry trade show and marketplace that wooed more than 6,000 influencers from around the world -- showed off Chicago to full advantage. Here, bagpipers perform under a huge welcome banner at McCormick Place. (Adam Alexander Photography)

Adam Alexander Photographs

The last time Chicago opened its proverbial doors to IPW attendees was 1998. Back then, we had a different mayor (Richard M. Daley)…a different president (Bill Clinton)…the Chicago Bulls were on the verge of winning their sixth NBA title…and we lived in a place that was starting to emerge from behind its “Second City” status. Both to Americans and people around the world. But now, thanks in part to the global attention Chicago’s earned as the home of President Barack Obama, the city ranks up there with New York and Los Angeles when international travelers think of world-class American cities.

Chicago architect and 19th Century urban planner Daniel Burnham reportedly advised, “Make no little plans.” And Mayor Rahm Emanuel is serious about making Chicago a global player on the travel stage. His goal: for the Windy City to be in the Top 5 most visited cities by overseas travelers to the United States. Right now, we’re at No. 9. And he’s aiming to welcome 55 million visitors to Chicago by 2020.

It’s about far more than bragging rights, but the bottom line. And IPW’s visit to Chicago is expected to significantly boost that figure. According to a Rockport Analytics study commissioned by the U.S. Travel Association, we can expect an additional $1.6 billion in visitor spending over the next three years, thanks to the experience Travel industry pros enjoyed at IPW this month.

As Choose Chicago President and CEO Don Welsh told the Chicago Tribune earlier this month, “This is Chicago’s biggest job interview. We all know how great this city is. Now let’s show the rest of the world.”

And as a globe-trotting, proud Chicago native who loves showing off her hometown, I say AMEN to that!


About Maureen Jenkins

Maureen Jenkins is a food/travel writer and communications professional who's visited nearly 35 countries and territories, lived in Florence, Italy, and recently spent a year living in a charming village near Paris, France. The self-proclaimed 'urban travel girl' talks travel, food and wine – abroad and in Chicago – in "TCW Travel Connection.” Read more of her thoughts on living globally at