Ever since the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition brought visitors from all over the globe to the shores of Lake Michigan, Illinois has served as a premier destination for meetings and events. Of course, you can't expect every gathering to match a World's Fair, but whether you're looking to host a citywide convention or a 20-person retreat, the Land of Lincoln has all the resources you need to ensure your event succeeds.
On behalf of the Illinois Office of Tourism, I'd like to introduce you to all the ways Illinois makes for an ideal place to organize a corporate event.
Centrally located in the heart of the Midwest, Illinois is easily accessible by plane, train, or automobile. O'Hare International Airport lies just outside our great metropolis: Chicago. With more than 150 hotel properties representing 110,000 rooms, the greater region of Chicagoland has the capacity to host large gatherings all year-round -- especially at McCormick Place, a four-building convention complex with 2.6 million square feet of exhibit halls and a convenient location just minutes from downtown.
As the city of Chicago welcomed a record number
of visitors in 2016, McCormick Place also grew as a destination for professional summits. Last year, a number of events at McCormick Place saw all-time highs in attendance, including the International Manufacturing Technology Show, which drew more than 2,400 exhibitors.
All in all, Chicago welcomed 916,888 attendees to 31 major meetings and conventions in 2016 (eight of which set records for attendance), and that number is only likely to grow. We'll be ready for it, too, as the firm Lodging Econometrics expects 22 new hotels to open in the city in 2019 and beyond -- a total of 5,338 new rooms with which the city can host your growing crowds.
But Chicago isn't the only place that makes Illinois such a great place to host an event. All throughout the state, our cities and counties invite visitors to enjoy their own local activities and state-of-the-art meeting facilities and convention centers.
Just five minutes from O'Hare, the village of Rosemont is both convenient and fun, packing a variety of dining, shopping, and entertainment options within a space of 2.5 square miles. Along with the 92,000-square-foot Donald E. Stephens Convention Center, Rosemont offers special-event venues including MB Financial Park and Allstate Arena -- making it a particularly good choice for entertainment-related events.
With more than 65 hotels and over 50 alternative venues, the locales of Meet Chicago Northwest are just a quick Metra train ride away from downtown Chicago. This area is also rich in entertainment options, ranging from thoroughbred racing at Arlington Racetrack to outstanding shopping near Schaumburg Convention Center.
Likewise, DuPage County -- just 20 miles west of Chicago -- combines the excitement of the city with the tranquillity of the suburbs, while also boasting more than 100 hotels and resorts among its 39 communities. Further downstate, our capital, Springfield, offers experiences few cities of its size can rival. Beyond the exhibit halls of the Bank of Springfield Center, many of the city's historic sites and visitor attractions -- such as the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum -- are available for private functions.
In Peoria, the Peoria Riverfront Museum lets you hold a meeting in an auditorium overlooking the Illinois River or under virtual stars in the on-site planetarium. Along the scenic shores of the Mississippi River, the Quad Cities has several convention centers to choose from, including the iWireless Center in Moline. And don't overlook the Starved Rock Lodge & Conference Center, where adjourning a meeting means hiking among the natural gorges and waterfalls of Starved Rock State Park.
Wherever you decide to plan your event in Illinois, remember that you're not alone. Our state has more than 40 Convention & Visitor Bureaus, each of whom are more than willing to assist you in making your event go off without a hitch.
In fact, our CVBs can provide services -- usually at no cost to you -- that match your needs to the unique qualities and resources of the destination, resulting in a streamlined planning process that saves you time and enhances ROI. No matter where you plan to meet, the local CVB can help you choose a venue, provide you with information on the destination (for both print and web), supply your event with welcome banners and goodie-bag materials, and, above all, assist you with unbiased expertise on the region, including updated information on the latest and greatest off-site activities.
I'm proud of all that Illinois has to offer. Whether you prefer the world-class culture and dining of the big city, the friendly hospitality of small town America, or the serene beauty of our natural wonders, you'll find what you're looking for in Illinois. I'm confident you'll find Illinois is the perfect location to make your next meeting or convention the best one yet.
• Cory M. Jobe is the director of the Illinois Office of Tourism. firstname.lastname@example.org.