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Mayor Confident NATO Summit Will Boost Tourism

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Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. (CBS)

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. (CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) – Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Wednesday that he is sympathetic with downtown businesses that might have suffered because of all the people who stayed away due to the NATO Summit, but he said the gathering of world leaders was still very good for Chicago.

WBBM Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports the mayor acknowledges that many downtown restaurants that stayed open during the summit on Sunday and Monday saw their business fall way off, and lost money.

“I’m conscious of that, and sensitive to it,” Emanuel said. But he also noted musician Bonnie Raitt had two sold-out concerts downtown, and at least one other downtown theater had sold-out shows, like a normal weekend.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports

The mayor said he expects long- and short-term benefits to outweigh the weekend’s lack of patrons.

“There is a long-term benefit that will come from greater tourism. We already see certain people are staying longer – who hadn’t been exposed to Chicago – for the first time they came to Chicago,” Emanuel told reporters. “And a number of your colleagues from around the world, a number of them canceled their flights home, and are staying longer, because they’re in awe of our city.”

Indeed, a number of international journalists told WBBM Newsradio they’d be coming back to Chicago after their experience with the city during the NATO Summit.

Emanuel said if the NATO Summit boosts tourism at all – and he believes it will – it will be a very good thing for Chicago.

He noted, although Chicago is the third largest city in America, it ranks only 10th in terms of tourism. Even a small jump on that list would be a big boost for jobs and tourism dollars.

“If we go to 9th, it’s 25,000 more jobs in the city of Chicago, and about a billion dollars worth of economic activity,” Emanuel said.

The mayor said he believes those who attended the summit will spread the word about Chicago, and the city will get more tourism as a result.

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