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Chicago, Southland tourism groups see stronger ties

Bruce Rauner chairman Choose Chicago speaks Chicago SouthlConventi  Visitors Bureau's annual meeting Oak Lawn.File Photo. | Mike Nolan~Sun-Times Media.

Bruce Rauner, chairman of Choose Chicago, speaks at the Chicago Southland Convention & Visitors Bureau's annual meeting in Oak Lawn.File Photo. | Mike Nolan~Sun-Times Media.

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Updated: November 19, 2012 3:15PM



The head of Chicago’s convention and tourism organization said Wednesday he wants to establish better ties with similar organizations in the suburbs, including the Chicago Southland Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Bruce Rauner said his organization, Choose Chicago, shares a common goal with its suburban counterparts — bringing conventions, trade shows and tourists to the Chicago area, thus giving a lift to the region’s economy.

“Our futures are totally intertwined,” Rauner said, adding he hoped to establish a “multi-year effort of communication and cooperation” with the Southland tourism organization.

Rauner was named chairman of Choose Chicago — formerly the Chicago Convention & Tourism Bureau — in July 2010. He was the keynote speaker at the Southland’s group’s annual meeting Wednesday in Oak Lawn.

Rauner is a principal at venture capital firm GTCR and is also an investor in Wrapports, a firm whose properties include the parent company of the SouthtownStar.

He said that when he took the job, the city’s tourism marketing budget was trailing what Indianapolis spends to attract visitors. Also, Chicago was losing conventions and trade shows to other cities because of the high costs of holding shows at McCormick Place.

Rauner said some “major cost reforms” have been achieved, and Chicago is in a better position to compete for conventions and trade shows. Still, Rauner said, a bevy of taxes on visitors to Chicago doesn’t help the city’s tourism efforts, and he said his organization is trying to do a better job of appealing to foreign tourists, an area the city lags in.

“They don’t know us, we don’t communicate with them,” Rauner said of international visitors.

He said Choose Chicago recently opened an office in London and plans to open one soon in Germany.

Speaking prior to Rauner’s remarks, Jim Garrett, president and chief executive of the Southland Convention & Visitors Bureau, said the local hospitality industry is “returning to where it was before the recession.”

Looking ahead, Garrett said the bureau’s goals include enhancing the Southland’s image and establishing marketing partnerships with Choose Chicago as well as local chambers of commerce and colleges.



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