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ProMat trade show brings more people to McCormick Place than it did in 2019

ProMat trade show at McCormick Place has seen growth since height of pandemic
ProMat trade show at McCormick Place has seen growth since height of pandemic 02:57

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Downtown hotels are full as visitors flood the Loop for the ProMat trade show – happening inside McCormick Place.

It is one of the shows that have grown since the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. As CBS 2's Tara Molina reported, many say the trade show is really meaningful to the city's economic recovery – especially the downtown area.

The ProMat Show this year is the first since 2019. They brought thousands more people to Chicago with them – which is huge for the city's bottom line.

The ProMat Show is centered around logistics, supply chain, and manufacturing. It debuts new technology while connecting thousands of people from across the country and the world…

It is one of the 2023 shows showing growth since the pre-pandemic days of 2019 - with more people walking the floor at McCormick Place than ever before.

"We're a little bit overwhelmed with the amount of attendees that have showed up," said Daniel McKinnon, executive vice president of exhibitions and events for ProMat.

And McKinnon said ProMat choose Chicago for a reason - the space, and everything the city has to offer.

"It's emotional when we get back together, because it creates; it generates excitement and success for everybody involved," McKinnon said.

We are told the growing show, and its crowd of thousands, is helping with the city's long-term recovery.

"Yesterday afternoon and this morning, we had to add shuttles to the hotel routes," McKinnon said. "Our room block is fully, fully booked. We have over 50,000 registrations."

ProMat takes place every other year in Chicago – but has not been held in four years because of the pandemic. The show this year began on Monday, and runs through Thursday.

ProMat said it expected 1,000 exhibiting companies this year.

McCormick Place lost 234 events, 3.4 million visitors, and 2 million hotel room nights to the

pandemic - tallying a loss of $3.09 billion in economic impact and $236 million in state and local taxes.

The comeback hasn't happened overnight. But last year, attendance numbers for shows and conventions were right around 80 percent of where they were pre-COVID.

"We're starting to see this year, in 2023, shows getting even bigger than in 2019," said Lynn Osmond, president of Choose Chicago.

In 2022, there were 34 major meetings, conventions, and trade shows around the city, representing 1,152,616 hotel room nights – compared with 39 major events and 1,141,525 room nights in 2019, and 40 major events and 1,332,32 room nights in 2018. A major event requires 3,000 or more hotel room nights at its peak.

In 2022, there were 209 total events at McCormick Place with 1.5 million attendees, Choose Chicago said.

Osmond said trade shows are essential to downtown Chicago's comeback.

"And what it means for this is just not what's happening at McCormick Place for the show – it's that this ripples throughout the city," Osmond said. "I bet anybody that's trying to get a restaurant reservation this week is having a hard time."

Choose Chicago is still finalizing numbers from last year. But the expected dollars and cents impact of events at McCormick Place was $1.5 billion in 2022 – and they expect $1.8 billion this year.

"It's really important for our recovery," Osmond said.

Conventions and shows like ProMat are the bread and butter of the downtown hotel industry, according to the Illinois Hotel & Lodging Association,

"Chicago hotels have always relied on meetings and conventions as one of the core pillars of our business. While we may not have mountains or palm trees, we have the largest and most flexible convention center in North America," Michael Jacobson, president and chief executive officer of the Illinois Hotel & Lodging Association, said in a statement. "After a devastating year and a half, where we saw McCormick Place shuttered to business, we are excited to see conventions like ProMat back in Chicago. As conventions continue to rebound and reach pre-pandemic attendance levels, our hotels and their employees will continue to recover and flourish."

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