by Michael C. Lowe | March 01, 2012

Chicago's Mayor Rahm Emanuel has reshaped two of the Windy City's tourism organizations in an effort to cut costs and boost visitor numbers. As of last month, the Chicago Convention & Tourism Bureau and the Chicago Office of Tourism and Culture began joint operations, a move that is expected to save $1.3 million a year in administrative costs by sharing resources.

"This new organization will allow us to focus all of the city's efforts to attract visitors for business, pleasure and culture," said Mayor Emanuel in a statement. "By coordinating our efforts and establishing clear, measurable goals, we will show the world that Chicago is the best place to visit." The new entity has not yet been named.

The $1.3 million in annual savings will be redistributed toward national and international marketing campaigns that will now communicate a more unified message. "Rather than having two websites or two ad campaigns for two similar organizations, we will have one brand, one message and one call to action," said CCTB president and CEO Don Welsh, who now is president and CEO of the new organization.

Officials hope the additional marketing and advertising funds will help achieve their goal of attracting 50 million visitors per year by 2020, creating nearly $3.6 billion in additional revenue for Chicago's economy. Currently, the city welcomes about 40 million visitors annually.

"The reorganization will give us a chance to focus on enhancing and expanding what we already do," said Welsh. He hopes to add sales staff to help draw in more meeting and convention business. "The objective is to increase our visitors, which is a key economic driver and a benefit to the city as a whole."

An influx of travelers to town is expected to raise tax revenues by $50 million to $300 million per year, and officials estimate visitor spending could increase from $11.1 billion to $14.7 billion annually.