The North American International Auto Show has been held in Detroit annually for over 30 years. Aside from a few others, conferences or events that attract a large national audience hadn’t been very common in Detroit—until recently.
According to a report in Crain’s Detroit Business, that trend is changing significantly. Conferences in 2019 are expected to bring in hundreds of thousands of visitors who will stay at Detroit hotels and shop at local businesses.
Detroit Metro Convention and Visitors Bureau, which handles many requests from convention organizers, said it received 13 percent more such requests in 2018.
Some of these events bring not just people, but cache. CityLab hosted its conference in Detroit last year, which saw former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg give the opening address. Other well-known city builders from around the country attended and spoke on a number of substantial topics.
Many of the conferences downtown have been and will be hosted at the Cobo Center, which got an expensive green redesign in 2015. The center also recently announced that it will no longer be called the Cobo Center, and is selling the naming rights to Chemical Bank for $1.5 million annually.
These trends coincide with a general uptick in tourism in Detroit and the construction of many new hotels downtown.
Even so, according to Crain’s, there’s a shortage of rooms in the city. Downtown can accommodate over 5,000 guests, but some of the conventions on the docket expect tens of thousands of visitors.