CHARLOTTE, N.C. Visitors worldwide are headed to the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, but thousands are staying outside the Queen City – and their presence will make a substantial economic impact in the region.
The mix includes delegates, support personnel, security people and media.
Officials hope DNC visitors find the time to eat at local restaurants and visit some of the sights.
Cabarrus County will host thousands of delegates from Alaska, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan, Montana, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Texas, West Virginia, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia.
They and their families will be clustered at hotels at Exit 49 off Interstate 85, near Bruton Smith Boulevard.
DNC visitors are expected to generate about $6 million for the Cabarrus area, according to the Cabarrus County Convention and Visitors Bureau.
“We want to open the doors to all of Cabarrus and be their information source,” said John Agresti, the visitors bureau’s communications manager. “We want people to have fun and eventually become ambassadors for our area.”
Delegates staying in Cabarrus County will get welcome baskets filled with offerings donated by Concord Mills mall, Rocky River Vineyards, Sun Drop and other local businesses.
Included in the gift baskets is a video plugging such Cabarrus attractions as the Reed Gold Mine, Concord Mills, Charlotte Motor Speedway, downtown Concord and Kannapolis.
Meanwhile, in the Mooresville and Statesville areas, DNC participants have booked at least 1,100 hotel rooms, which translates into a $3.5 million economic impact on Iredell County, local tourism officials said.
Attendees who’ve booked rooms in the county include DNC security personnel, service technicians and other convention workers, and employees of such government agencies as the Department of Energy, officials said.
DNC participants have booked at least 700 of the 1,100 hotel rooms available in the Mooresville area.
In Iredell, rooms full of staff
But Iredell tourism officials said they didn’t expect a tremendous economic boost to the area beyond the hotel bookings.
That’s because convention workers and other participants will be bused to Charlotte from the hotels at 6 a.m. or earlier each morning and then back to their hotels late at night, leaving little or no time to visit local attractions.
Still, Mooresville tourism officials visited hotels this week to make sure they had plenty of brochures touting local attractions.
Cornelius-based Visit Lake Norman said it wouldn’t be able to provide an economic impact estimate from the DNC until after the convention.
Gaston County’s only official DNC event is at Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden – a pre-convention welcome party for delegates from Kansas, Arkansas, Missouri and West Virginia.
But tourism director Walt Israel said most of Gaston’s 1,500 hotel rooms are booked solid during the convention. The guests are support people, such as FBI agents, the media, as well as peripheral groups like lobbyists.
Hopes for good impression
Israel said he hoped that convention goers – whether they’re support people, media or delegates – will visit such places as Crowders Mountain State Park, the Gaston County Museum of History and Gastonia’s Schiele Museum of Natural History.
He estimated the DNC’s economic impact on Gaston County would be well over $1 million.
“This is the first time the Charlotte region has been on the world stage,” Israel said. “And we want to put on our best face and make sure it’s the most incredible experience visitors can possibly have. If they ever come back and visit us again, we want to make sure they have the best we can offer.”
In York County, S.C., hotel operators hope available space will fill quickly as the start of the convention approaches, the Rock Hill Herald reported.
Sixteen York County hotels had committed 11,000 rooms for the convention. How many rooms will become available won’t be known until final convention reservations are made.
Overall, York County has 24,000 hotel rooms. Some hotels held back a few rooms for frequent or corporate customers for the convention. Many were advising key clients not to schedule visits to the area during the convention.
Media members and security staff are staying in Rock Hill, but no state delegations will stay in the county. Staff writer Elisabeth Arriero and business editor Don Worthington of The (Rock Hill) Herald contributed.