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January 7, 2015

Detroit Attracts Large-Scale Conventions

At the end of January 2014, The Detroit Convention and Visitor's Bureau announced that advance bookings for convention and hotel business in the Motor City were up for 2014 and 2015 over 2013—a positive sign after the city filed the largest municipal bankruptcy in the U.S. by debt in July 2013.

And according to a recent story in the Detroit News, the city's MICE scene has continued to do well. Last fall, the Detroit Regional Convention Facility Authority announced that event bookings had reached a 20-year high. Total 2014 fiscal year revenues increased to $25 million on the strength of a 22 percent increase in the number of events it hosted and 19 percent higher parking receipts compared to the prior year.

Patrick Bero, CEO and chief financial officer of the Authority, told the Detroit Free Press that operating revenues at the city's Cobo Center are up 250 percent between fiscal 2010 and fiscal 2014, reducing the dependence on taxpayer operating subsidies. “Hotels, restaurants and tourist attractions throughout southeast Michigan are reaping the benefits of our efforts," he said. 

RELATED: Following Bankruptcy Ruling, Detroit Pushes Forward with New Developments

Cobo Center Renovation

The $279 million renovation to the Cobo Center is set to be finished over the summer. The venue's updated ballroom, atrium and other meeting areas provide 723,000 square feet of exhibit space, making it one of the largest convention centers in the Midwest. The renovations also included major technology upgrades, as well as changes to the facility's operations to lower costs for exhibitors. The final phases of construction will include a TV broadcast studio with satellite uplink capability, giant exterior video walls for event information and advertising, a state-of-the-art Scala wayfinding system and an open-air terrace overlooking the river for event and community programming. 

Major groups and events are taking note of what’s available: The Free Press expects that the Cobo Center will host an estimated 800,000 visitors over the public days of the North American International Auto Show starting January 17, plus 5,000 or more news media analysts and industry executives and other representatives from 60 countries and 39 states starting January 11, judging by 2014 numbers. In August, the American Society of Association Executives will bring 6,000 to the Center for its annual meeting. (ASAE President and CEO John Graham told the Detroit News that if attendees like what they see, at least 20 percent of them typically book a major meeting in the host city within five to 10 years.) The National Baptist Convention Educational Congress will come to Detroit in June, bringing 30,000 attendees. Upwards of 40,000 more people will be in Detroit for the Evangelical Lutheran Church Youth Gathering in July, with the general sessions at Ford Field.

RELATED: Detroit Sees Increase in Convention Bookings

All of this shows strong promise for the Motor City and the Cobo Center: As the Detroit News noted, the Center only hosted two large-scale events in 2008. With the combined cache of the above events and the buzz surrounding the Center’s renovation, Detroit may soon see a substantial increase in business travel.

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