By Jenny Berg Posted May 13, 2009, 3:13 PM EDT
CHICAGO On Tuesday morning approximately 250 travel industry reps headed to Navy Pier's Lakeview Rooftop Terrace for a travel and tourism rally, where they found upbeat tunes (“Celebrate Good Times" made the play list), a spread of Chicago-style fare such as pizza and hot dogs, and the Brookfield Zoo's mascot, BZ Bear.
The first rally of its kind, the event was held in conjunction with National Travel and Tourism Week and sponsored by the U.S. Travel Association. “Because of what has happened with those companies who may have misused government funding, and in a response to president Obama's remarks that you can't take TARP funding and go on a junket to Vegas, the meetings and event industry has been hit very hard,” said Meghan Risch, director of public relations for the Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau. ”So the C.C.T.B. has been working very closely with the U.S. Travel Association—as have may other C.T.B.s around the country—to reiterate the importance of travel and tourism not only to our local economy, but also to our national economy as a whole.”
The rally, Risch said, took place in 36 cities across the country. “New Orleans is having a parade,” she said, ”and some cities are having more of an educational forum. In Chicago, we wanted the rally to be a real celebration of the impact travel and tourism has on our city. It's going to be a real upbeat celebration, but it will stress a very critical message: that the competition is real. It's times like these that call for a city like ours, where people don't have to defend having a meeting or event in Chicago” as opposed to hosting events in cities such as Las Vegas.
Organizers also used yesterday's rally as a platform for Tim Roby, president and C.E.O. of the Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau, to speak about a new series of online ads that the city will release on May 18. Entitled “Meetings Mean Business,” the campaign is meant to ”stress to Fortune 500 companies and other large companies that have headquarters in Chicago that they need to keep their meetings local,” Risch said. “Its message all comes down to jobs. It will say, 'This is what we need to be doing to make sure that you people [in the travel and tourism industry] have jobs to come to every day.'”