Chicago and Mexico City: How Sister Cities Boost Tourism and the Economy
By Jenny Bergman, Junior Executive at The San Jose Group
An old travel tactic is boosting tourism from Mexico City to Chicago: Sister Cities. The idea of “Twin Towns” and “Sister Cities” originated after World War II as an effort to rebuild diplomatic relationships and solidify peace. Today, the concept of sister cities extends past cultural and educational purposes, now creating a solid foundation for greater economic engagement between two cities. In 2013, Chicago and Mexico City signed a historic city-to-city strategic trade agreement, the first pact to be tried under the Global Cities Initiative. A project of Brookings and JPMorgan Chase, the Global Cities Initiatives calls for a joint effort in trade, investment and innovation.
While Chicago and Mexico City have been Sister Cities since 1991, this trade agreement builds on existing cultural and economic ties between the two cities. Both cities are a top North America trading partner for each other, involving the trade of more than $1.7 billion worth of locally produced goods. Additionally, about 1.6 million people of Mexican descent live in Illinois, and the Chicago metro area has the fourth-largest concentration of Mexican immigrants in the U.S.
An addendum to this partnership pact included an agreement to further cooperation on tourism promotion. The main focus of sister city partnerships today is on shared economic development, and the tourism industry is a huge factor in the economic well-being of a city. Travel from Mexico represents one of the highest sources of international visitors to Chicago, along with the U.K, Japan and Germany. In 2013, visitors from Mexico to the Chicago Metro area increased 42%.
At least six flights bring travelers from Mexico City to Chicago each day, and 72% of Mexicans who flew to Illinois in 2012 or 2013 not go on to travel anywhere else, choosing to stay in the Land of Lincoln. Chicago was the most popular area for Mexican visitors during this time, with 96.1% of travelers to Illinois visiting the downtown area. These trips do not solely function as opportunities to visit family members, as almost 50% of Mexican travelers saw Illinois and the Chicago metro area as a vacation spot. When visiting, the shopping and dining opportunities Illinois has to offer were the biggest attractions for Mexican travelers.
As Sister Cities, Mexico City and Chicago have created an opportunity to share information to make their respective economies stronger. For example, Mexico recently made a big move into advanced manufacturing, an industry in which the city of Chicago has an interest. Fostering a healthy and innovative business relationship can have positive effects in a variety of sectors, and travel and tourism represents an area where both cities can expect to profit.