Gina Speckman never planned on committing more than 35 years to the hospitality and tourism industries. She earned her bachelor’s at the University of Michigan, along with a Master of Business Administration from New York University’s Stern School of Business. While perusing for jobs as any postgraduate would, an opportunity at what was previously the Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau came to fruition—and Speckman hasn’t looked back.
“Jerry Roper, my first boss in Chicago who was the CEO of the Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau (now called Choose Chicago), got me into this industry and was, and still is, a huge influence, even though he is no longer with us,” says Speckman. After nearly 17 years with Choose Chicago as senior director of marketing communications, Speckman moved north to accept a position as executive director of Chicago’s North Shore Convention & Visitors Bureau. “Personally, I believe it is the most scenic and beautiful area in metropolitan Chicago,” she adds. “Lake Michigan is a big part of that, but we also have lots of green space, great air and rail transportation options to downtown, Chicago O’Hare International Airport, a Big Ten university (Northwestern), and all the great things that come with college towns like that.”
Beyond a passion for the work she does promoting Chicago’s North Shore as a destination for leisure and business alike, Speckman notes the added perks that make the job so attractive. “I think people are what make the travel and tourism industries special, and I am a people person,” she says. “I have made great friends, and I love to travel, so it’s a good industry for me.”
Situated at the crossroads of many major freeways connecting the Midwest to the rest of the country, along with it being the largest urban hub in the region and therefore making it a prominent destination for airlines, Chicago offers an accessibility for planners and attendees alike whether they’re flying in from nearby cities or from afar. Speckman notes, “I think Chicago’s location in the U.S. and our easy reach to millions of people in the Midwest and beyond will always be a strong draw for meetings and events.”