Cook County Celebrates Launch of ‘Tourism Alive’

Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle today celebrated the launch of Cook County Tourism Alive, an initiative dedicated to helping the hospitality and tourism industry in suburban Cook County thrive in the post-COVID-19 economy. Local elected officials, leadership from the Forest Preserves of Cook County and representatives from the five suburban convention and visitor bureaus (CVBs) joined President Preckwinkle in the celebration, which took place during National Travel and Tourism Week.

Tourism Alive, which focuses on suburban Cook County, includes a new tourism campaign called Outside Chicago and a workforce development campaign called “This is Your Wake Up Call.”

“The hospitality and tourism industry is a key contributor to the economic well-being of Cook County, and we are proud to build this initiative that will drive people—whether they are residents, tourists or employees—to the region,” said President Preckwinkle. “This industry also suffered greatly during the pandemic, and we understand the importance of providing financial support in the years to come. We are grateful to our many partners that brought this initiative to fruition.”

Tourism Alive, which is led by the Cook County Bureau of Economic Development, is funded through $10 million that Cook County received through the American Rescue Plan Act.

Planning and development for this first-of-its-kind partnership began over a year ago between Cook County and the five suburban CVBs: Chicago Southland CVB, Chicago’s North Shore CVB, Meet Chicago Northwest, Rosemont CVB and Visit Oak Park.

Each CVB has been working to develop new initiatives or expand existing ones with direct support and funding from Tourism Alive. Since Tourism Alive began, CVBs have made major gains, including Meet Chicago Northwest, which put together a multimedia marketing golf campaign with an investment of over $41,700. The campaign, which showcased golf retailers and golf courses in the northwest suburbs, brought in over 4,000 new golfers to the area and an increase of $1.8 million in hotel room revenue in July and August 2023.

Cook County is also partnering with these CVBs to participate in Visit Chicagoland, a tourism campaign highlighting fun adventures throughout the region.

Tourism Alive also includes the spring 2024 launch of Outside Chicago, which encourages residents and visitors to explore suburban outdoor areas that are outside the limits of the City of Chicago and still within Cook County.

There are over 70,000 acres of scenic places to enjoy, including forest preserves, parks, shorelines, hiking trails, biking trails, campsites and waterways.

Visitors to the Outside Chicago website can view maps, guides and expert tips on how to enjoy the great outdoors in suburban Cook County. They can also share photos from their adventures with Outside Chicago’s account on Instagram.

Many of the highlighted locations are part of the Forest Preserves.

“Outside Chicago is a great new way for us to reach out to a broad and diverse audience to welcome them to our nature centers, campgrounds, more than 350 miles of trails, fishing spots, boat launches and so much more,” said Eileen Figel, interim general superintendent of the Forest Preserves of Cook County.

Tourism Alive is also supporting workforce development in the hospitality and tourism industry through a new campaign titled “This is Your Wake Up Call.” Suburban Cook County offers opportunities for career seekers and employers, and Tourism Alive will highlight such opportunities, including through hiring events.

Hospitality Hires North, hosted by Cook County and the Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership, will take place on Wednesday, May 29, from 9 a.m - 3 p.m., at the Hilton Orrington in Evanston.

Each year, millions of tourists from around the world visit Cook County to enjoy its parks, beaches, museums, restaurants and more, making the tourism and hospitality industry one of the largest economic sectors in Illinois.

As of late 2023, there were over 38,000 job postings in suburban Cook County related to the sector.

“Our hotels and restaurants are still facing hiring challenges,” said Gina Speckman, executive director of Chicago’s North Shore CVB. “In addition to highlighting the career paths offered to those in our industry, Tourism Alive also strives to directly assist our businesses in finding new employees through our suburban Cook County hiring events.”

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