Reports this week suggest the booming hotel industry has great times ahead, particularly interesting coming at a time of the year when most Chicagoans are seriously questioning their decision to stay in a city where they're compelled to sprint through subzero weather on a regular basis. The rosy outlook comes from a Tribune report predicting that we'll see 50 million tourists this year, an increase from the 48.3 million visitors that came to town in 2013. That's a lot more selfies in front of the Bean.
The usual suspects, from events like Lollapalooza to new attractions such as Maggie Daley Park to increased promotion by the city, are at play. Ted Mandigo, president of the Chicago-based hotel consulting firm TR Mandigo & Co. and an expert quoted in the article, says the increase in available rooms is "significant," and that there's real potential for the widening number of competitors to make success harder for individual hotels, even as the pool of guests expands.
The solution to standout seems to be going boutique, a strategy being employed by two of the biggest new players in the market, Virgin and Loews. Raul Leal, CEO of Virgin Hotels, told the Trib the chain's debut location in the old Dearborn Bank Building, as we well the introduction of next-gen amenities such as smartphone-based lighting control in each room, will keep the hotel edgy and relevant for years to come. Erik Grazetti, director of sales and marketing for Loews Chicago, also pushed the idea of making a new aesthetic statement to stand out in a crowded market. The story also suggests Loews is making a concerted effort to appeal to Chinese travelers and a more international crowd. It'll be interesting to see how an increase in available rooms and travelers changes the competitive landscape (and what the city will do with all that increased hotel revenue).