Chicago officials reported that hotel occupancy last month hit a record level for a March, helping bring first quarter results to levels not seen in five years.

Hotel occupancy reached 59.5 percent for the first quarter, the highest rate for that quarter since 2007 and final figures are expected to show that in March occupancy exceeded a former peak of 73% in March 2006.

“Tourism is a vital, essential part of our economic strategy, and I am focused on making sure we see continued success in this key area,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a statement with the organization Choose Chicago.

Chicago sees about 43.6 million visitors annually and the city hopes to bring that number to 50 million. Leisure visitors generate $725 million in tax revenue and $12 billion in direct spending.

Hotel tax revenues go to repay borrowing by several government issuers including the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority and the Metropolitan Pier & Exposition Authority. The state backstops the MPEA bonds and city income taxes backstop the ISFA’s Soldier Field bonds.

Subscribe Now

Independent and authoritative analysis and perspective for the bond buying industry.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.