Who We Are
The Explore Chicago team managed and executed all aspects of an award-winning integrated marketing and social media strategy for the Chicago Office of Tourism and Culture, a not-for-profit agency dedicated to promoting Chicago as a premier leisure and cultural tourism destination. The Explore Chicago team launched the city’s official tourism website, www.ExploreChicago.org, in January, 2009, and established itself as an industry leader and innovator in the use of cutting-edge technologies and social media in tourism promotion through an internationally-recognized Explore Chicago-branded presence on Foursquare, Twitter, and other social media platforms.
ExploreChicago.org / WebsitesChicago's Official Tourism Website
Awarded 2009 Best Destination Website by North American Travel Jouralists Association
ExploreChicago.org is a dedicated dynamic leisure destination website promoting the best of Chicago to visitors from around the world. Launched in January, 2009, ExploreChicago.org was designed to be a comprehensive tourism resource – with interactive maps and information about Chicago’s 77 neighborhoods and thousands of events, tours, festivals, attractions, restaurants, and shops – for both visitors and Chicago residents. ExploreChicago.org logged a record-setting 6.14 million total visits from 214 countries 2011, making it Chicago’s #1 tourism website based on traffic volume. View Website
"... Explore Chicago, the city of Chicago's official tourism site, has just launched a new page that will instantly make the top of your bookmark list. The Fashion Focus Chicago website will help you keep track of events and news, and it will even help you come up with a plan of action." - Shandi Silver, Refinery29.com
The Explore Chicago team created and managed microsites for all Chicago Office of Tourism and Culture seasonal tourism campaigns, special events and departmental initiatives, including Summer 2011’s Urban Excursions, Winter Dance, World Music Festival Chicago, Fashion Focus Chicago, Chicago Greeter, Chicago Neighborhood Tours and many others.View Web Portfolio
Explore Chicago's Impact
A year-long study by the Nichols Tourism Group determined that Explore Chicago directly influenced $232 million of visitor spending and $4.2 million in local taxes.
ExploreChicago.org received a record-setting 6.14 million total visits from 214 countries 2011, making it Chicago’s #1 tourism website based on traffic volume.
Social MediaEXPLORECHICAGO.ORG Social Media
Social Media Platforms
Awarded Communicator Award of Excellence in Social Media, 2011 by the International Academy of Visual Arts
The COTC led the way in award-winning, technologically-innovative use of social media in tourism promotion. What began in Summer 2009 as a Twitter concierge service to assist visitors with real-time Chicago sightseeing, shopping and dining inquiries soon grew into an integrated social media strategy that leveraged Facebook, Instagram, Flickr, YouTube, Tumblr, and groundbreaking partnerships with Foursquare and SCVNGR to deliver tourism tools, services and promotion directly into visitors/locals’ hands.
Social Media Week
Explore Chicago was named the top “influencer” in North America for Social Media Week (SMW), September 19 – 23, 2011, a distinction recognizing Explore Chicago’s role in shaping the conversations people are having about social media trends and the innovative application of these new technologies in today’s social media-driven world. Recognizing that social media has redefined the ways people travel, gather information, and share their travel experiences, we hosted a series of free guided neighborhood photo tours to demonstrate how cities can use social media in progressive ways.
Explore Chicago Blog
Explore Chicago maintained a popular blog that featured weekly articles targeting young professionals and families; seasonal festivals and events; “photos of the day”, which offered “authentic” perspectives of Chicago neighborhoods, restaurants, and events by amateur photographers; and other content highlighting and celebrating Chicago’s diverse cultural heritage, LGBT Chicago, shopping and fashion, fun for foodies, neighborhood treks, and more.
General MarketingCOTC marketing
The Explore Chicago team was tasked with promotion of all Millennium Park programming and initiatives, from ad placements to administration of the Millennium Park microsite (millenniumpark.org), as well as all print brochures and onsite signage.
The Explore Chicago team designed seasonal campaigns and promotions to attract visitors to Chicago. These bi-yearly campaigns included several award-winning initiatives such as Eat, Play, Love Our Neighborhoods; Urban Excursions; and Winter Dance.
Chicago Cultural Center
The Explore Chicago team was tasked with promotion of all Chicago Cultural Center programming, including hundreds of free music, dance and theater events; lectures; art exhibitions; films and family events each year. Efforts included event calendars, exhibition announcements and design and administration of ChicagoCulturalCenter.org.
The Explore Chicago team created interactive maps and printable guides detailing over 2,000 new attractions, events and tours uncovered throughout Chicago’s 77 diverse neighborhoods. These, along with insightful essays, insider tips, videos and visitor planning tools, allowed users to capture the essence of this ‘City of Neighborhoods’ before they went.
Strategic PartnersExplorechicago.org Partnerships
Explore Chicago was an inaugural partner in the launch of Google Currents. Google worked with us to feature rich, dynamic tourism content from ExploreChicago.org. Explore Chicago’s edition on Google Currents launched on December 8, alongside such top trending content producers as mashable.com, the Huffington Post, Forbes, and PBS. This exciting partnership was just one of the many examples of COTC’s commitment to working with private sector technology companies to broaden our reach and deliver even more information about the city to a wider audience.
.View Review 1 View Review 2
ExploreChicago.org, the city of Chicago’s official tourism site, teamed up with Motorola Mobility Inc. and the Motorola Mobility Foundation on StoryPlace.me, a mobile tourism app released in the Android Marketplace. The service allows users to view, upload and share site-specific video content.
The Chicago Office of Tourism and Culture provided the content for the testing phase of StoryPlace.me, uploading nearly 100 videos collected from its cultural and hospitality partners including.Learn More About StoryPlace.Me
Explore Chicago partnered with HGTV on Urban Oasis 2011, where one lucky viewer got a chance to win a luxury condo at the Trump International Hotel and Tower. This hour-long special, filmed right here in Chicago, featured breathtaking shots of the city, and highlighted local shops and attractions. Explore Chicago commercials aired during the television special as part of this sponsorship, promoting popular Chicago tourism attractions, while a special page on ExploreChicago.org highlighted the places HGTV designers shopped around town to furnish the residence.
.Learn More About Urban Oasis
“What impressed me the most, offering the most potential, was a tile for the World Music Festival in Chicago. Once selected, you can peruse through the Festival’s participating musicians.” - Mezzic.com
The Chicago Office of Tourism and Culture (COTC) was a launch partner for Groovebug, an interactive ipad music magazine app released in 2011 on the Apple App Store. COTC's World Music Festival Chicago 2011 was among the featured content at launch.
Learn More About Groovebug
AwardsExplore Chicago Recognitions
Year after year, Explore Chicago’s seasonal campaigns, websites, and social media initiatives have received top recognitions by leaders in the field of tourism promotion.
Highlights of some of our most recent awards and accolades include:
North American Travel Journalists Association (NATJA) Awards
- GOLD AWARD in Visitors Guide
- for Eat, Play, Love Our Neighborhoods e-book, 2010
- SILVER AWARD in Social Media Marketing Campaign
- Explore Chicago Foursquare, 2010
- BEST DESTINATION WEBSITE
- Explore Chicago.org, 2009
Illinois Excellence in Tourism Awards - Governor’s Conference
- Best Tourism Marketing Campaign
- Explore Chicago: Eat, Play, Love Our Neighborhoods, 2010
- Explore Chicago: Take a Neighborhood Vacation, 2009
- Best Creative Cooperative Partnership
- ExploreChicago.org Airport Technology Lounges Marketing Intiative, 2009
- Best Visitor Publication:
- Explore Chicago: Eat, Play, Love Our Neighborhoods E-Book, 2010
- Best Social Media Marketing
- Explore Chicago Foursquare Partnership, 2010
Travel and Leisure’s Inaugural Social Media in Travel and Tourism (SMITTY) Awards
- Best Use of Social Media Platform, Runner Up
- Explore Chicago Foursquare, 2011
International Academy of Visual Arts (IAVA) Recognitions
- COMMUNICATOR AWARD OF EXCELLENCE
in Social Media, 2011
- COMMUNICATOR AWARD OF EXCELLENCE in Marketing Effectiveness in Social Media, 2010
- SILVER W3 AWARD - Picture Yourself in Chicago e-postcard, 2009
Publicity Club of Chicago
- SILVER TRUMPET AWARD for Special Events
- Fashion Focus Chicago, 2012
- World Music Festival Chicago, 2012