Will the Democratic National Convention bring the Charlotte Convention Center more business?
The CRVA and the DNC say there will be long-lasting effects, as the city enjoys the national spotlight for three days in September. Steve Kerrigan, chief executive of the DNC Committee, says Boston enjoyed a boom in convention business after hosting the 2004 DNC.
Boston isn’t so sure. The number of convention center hotel-room nights in Boston jumped by more than 35 percent in the year after the DNC. But Mac Daniel, a spokesperson for the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority, said that increase came at the same time the city opened a new $850 million convention center.
“Was it because of the DNC? Who knows,” Daniel said.
Evidence from other cities is even less assuring.
• Philadelphia hosted the 2000 Republican National Convention but saw the number of hotel-room nights booked by the city’s center plummet.
In 2000, the city’s center generated 547,000 room nights, according to the city’s Convention and Visitors Bureau. On the eve of the recession in 2007, it fell to 336,000. Last year, it booked 312,000 room nights. The city expanded its convention center last year.
• Denver, which hosted the 2008 DNC, saw convention attendance decline the following year, but that was due in part to the recession.
Rich Grant, a communications director for Visit Denver, said he doesn’t expect the DNC to drive future increases in attendance.
“If you could have made that connection we would have made it,” Grant said.
Earlier this year, the CRVA – whose slogan is “The Democratic National Convention Chose Us, and You Should, Too!” – said the Veterans of Foreign Wars picked Charlotte for its 2016 convention because of the DNC.
But the VFW’s director of meetings and events, Vanessa Kane, said Charlotte was picked for its air service, inexpensive hotel rooms and the CRVA’s willingness to give the group a discount on rent.
“I don’t recall the DNC having anything to do with it,” Kane said.
Boston and Denver are already among top destinations. Lesser-known Charlotte could have more upside.
“I just talked to the CEO of US Travel who said you have the best media opportunity in the world,” said CRVA chief executive Tom Murray. “We know that when people come to Charlotte, it’s easy to book a piece of business. We just have to get them here.”
DNC officials have said Charlotte was picked not because it’s a great destination, but because of politics. President Barack Obama hopes to win Virginia and North Carolina again.
Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx has said the DNC offers Charlotte a unique opportunity to “tell its story,” and possibly convince companies to relocate or increase investment in the city.
That sort of publicity is almost impossible to measure.
The Charlotte Chamber is enthusiastic about the marketing possibilities of the DNC, but it can’t point to Denver landing a new company or business expansion because of the convention.
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