Bob Sirott's one more thing about Chicago as a tourist dest. - KMSP-TV

Bob Sirott's one more thing about Chicago as a tourist destination

Updated: Apr 25, 2012 22:22 PM CDT
CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

One more thing, about making Chicago a destination for international travelers.

We only attracted 4.3 percent of the 27 million overseas U.S. travelers in 2010, compared to 32 per cent for New York.

Forty million visitors a year come here, but only 1.2 million are foreign tourists.

City leaders are talking about how to change that, and so I've been thinking, what makes you pick a city, or a country as a vacation destination?

First of all we prefer places that aren't too hard to get to. With all the flights to O'Hare, we're good on that score.

Food is a big tourist draw, and Chicago's wide variety of great restaurants - including many that won't bust your budget - rank among the best in the world.

Natural beauty is a big attraction. Our lakefront, Lincoln Park and the rich colors and textures of Chicago's historic architecture are definite people pleasers.

Of course, tourists look for things to do too, and we've got that covered, by boat, bike, or Wrigleyville rooftop. All that, Millennium Park and the museums are just the main course.

We need to put more of a spotlight on our great ethnic neighborhoods - Greektown, Chinatown, Pilsen, Taylor Street, Devon Avenue, Bronzeville - all those areas have restaurants, stores, and events that should give people all over the world more reasons to come here.

That's what we need to promote. Right now visitors from other countries are taking pictures of the Marilyn Monroe statue's underwear.

Travel industry experts said tourists head for the better known east and west coasts.

We're thought of more as a business center, or the home of Al Capone, Michael Jordan, and even though she's not here now, Oprah.

Mayor Emanuel has taken the first step toward correcting this by opening Chicago sales offices in Brazil, Germany, and Japan.

We've got the product; it just needs to be promoted better. It'll be worth it.

A 25 percent increase in tourism could raise visitor spending by $3.6 billion a year, and boost annual tax revenue by up to $300 million.

That could come in handy to help Chicago's big city budget problems. Maybe the NATO Summit will help.

Chicago does have everything. Just look at the last week. We've played host to Nobel Prize winners, and… the Kardashians. 

We'd love to hear from you. Go to Facebook.com/BobSirottOMT to view the One More Thing archives and leave your comments. Leave a short, snappy one, make us think, enlighten us, or amuse us and it doesn't matter if you agree or disagree -- you'll have a good chance of getting on TV.

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