Choose Chicago Taps Industry Veteran David Whitaker to Head Bureau

June 7, 2016

Convention and visitors bureau veteran David Whitaker was named by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Choose Chicago Board Chair Desiree Rogers as the new president and CEO of the Windy City’s bureau.  

"David Whitaker is a tourism champion with the vision and leadership required to steer Chicago's visitor industry to new heights," Mayor Emanuel said.

He added, "Over the past five years, Chicago's tourism industry has strengthened our city's economy and provided more than 15,000 jobs. With more than 25 years in the industry, David Whitaker has the experience and expertise to build on this progress by bringing even more meetings and events to our city and all of the economic opportunities they create for Chicago's residents."

Whitaker steps into a role left vacant earlier this year when Don Welsh, who led the bureau for five years, took another position.

Whitaker most recently served as chief marketing officer for Brand USA, the nation's official destination marketing organization based in Washington D.C., where he oversaw the fully integrated marketing campaigns in 14 international markets, as well as Brand USA's international trade offices.

Prior to joining Brand USA, Whitaker served as president and CEO of Tourism Toronto for eight years.

During this time, he implemented a strategy to reinvigorate Toronto as a leading leisure and business travel destination, which included marketing and advertising focused on attracting high-value travelers from major U.S. cities, the United Kingdom, Germany, China, Japan and Brazil.

Whitaker also spent 17 years with the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau, where he most recently served as executive vice president and chief marketing officer helping shape Miami's international image.

"I am thrilled to be coming to Chicago," Whitaker said. "The city offers a unique and energizing global city experience that appeals to travelers from around the world. I am honored to join the Choose Chicago team and help accelerate the growth of Chicago's visitor industry and convention business."

After an extensive nationwide search conducted by a 20-member search committee led by Rogers, Whitaker was selected because of his destination marketing expertise and strategic vision.

"We are proud and delighted to announce David Whitaker as the next CEO of Choose Chicago," Rogers said.

She added, "David is an industry veteran who has successfully increased domestic and international visitation to two major North American cities. He is the kind of leader we need to move the needle and exceed Mayor Emanuel's goal of 55 million visitors by 2020 and propel Chicago's position as a leading U.S. destination for international travelers."

Whitaker will lead Choose Chicago's sales and marketing efforts focused on increasing overnight visitation from regional, national and international markets. He officially will transition to his new role July 6 as president and CEO of Choose Chicago.

Chicago saw record visitation in 2015 with more than 52 million visitors. Since 2010, Chicago's tourism industry has added more than 15,000 jobs, including an estimated 3,800 new jobs in 2015.

The city also continues to be a leading destination for meetings and conventions ranking number two in Cvent's 2016 Top 50 Meeting Destinations in the U.S.

Tourism in 2015 generated $935 million in total tax revenue, $2.2 billion in revenue for Chicago's hotels and $124.1 million in hotel tax revenue. Every dollar invested in Choose Chicago generates $25 in state and local taxes.

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