CHICAGO (CBS) — As much as we might dream of a weekend escape from Chicago, a lot of people could be planning a weekend escape to the Windy City.

CBS 2’s Vince Gerasole reports tourism numbers have dropped in past years, so a big-effort is being aimed at boosting them.

Tourism generated $600 million in tax revenue last year, but in tough times it needs to be higher. Thursday night, members from the city’s restaurant and entertainment industry were learning about an effort to do just that.

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Michigan Avenue’s world class shopping is only part of what draws weekend visitors Howard and Stacy Wallach here from Detroit.

“We like to shop, we like to see shows – we saw a show last night – go to Second City, see some great restaurants,” Stacy Wallach said.

But, since the economy took a dive, the number of leisure visitors checking into the city’s hotels and spending money around town has dropped dramatically – from 33 million in 2007 to just over 28 million last year.

In a glitzy new ad campaign, the Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau was hoping to draw more casual tourists from cities within 300 miles to Chicago.

“You look at what we have – we need to speak more confidently and boldly and more proactively to drive increased visitation,” Tourism Bureau marketing executive Warren Wilkinson said.

It sounds hard to believe, but the new ad is the first-ever televised and online tourism ad campaign for Chicago. The CCTB hopes it will generate $50 in revenue for the city for each of the $1.8 million it cost to produce and distribute – for a total of $90 million.

“I think that’s actually a very conservative number,” Wilkinson said. “We’re inside 300 miles … it’s a drive purchase … Chicago has the assets, has the attraction.”

Similar campaigns for neighboring destinations like Michigan have paid off big and those running hotels know, unlike convention travelers, leisure tourists can spend more money when they travel.

Fred Khoury, general manager of the Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel, said, “The leisure traveler, I mean, for them this is a hotel. They want a great rate to be able to stay here, but then the rest of the time, they want to be out and about.”

The bottom line is that convention travelers and leisure travelers are two different beasts. Money spent during a convention here won’t be pumped into the local market for years. Efforts targeting leisure travelers hopefully pay off within a 12-month period.

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