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Convention expected to be boon to tourism industry

Charlotte’s snagging of the 2012 Democratic National Convention is expected to have an impact on many of the city’s sectors, including hospitality and tourism.

The convention, expected to draw more than 35,000 attendees, will mean quite a windfall for area hotels, Sid Smith, executive director of the Charlotte Area Hotel Association, said today.

The convention not only means big business for local hotels, but it will also help bolster Charlotte’s image for other events, he said.

“It’s a win for the city of Charlotte, and it will really help put Charlotte on the map as a destination for big conventions and meetings such as this,” he said. “This will bring an awful lot of people to Charlotte. The convention is basically a citywide meeting that will fill all the hotel rooms in and around the city and probably the outlying areas as well. It’s great for business, and we’re thrilled to have it.”

The impact of convention is expected to be most dramatic in uptown. Tens of thousands of attendees will gather at the Charlotte Convention Center and fill area hotels, restaurants, museums and bars, said Michael Smith, president and CEO of Charlotte Center City Partners, which promotes economic development in uptown.

Smith said Charlotte is now part of a list that contains other well-known cities — New York, Dallas, San Francisco, Miami — that have played host to the convention.

“To me, that’s striking,” he said. “This is our premiere as a new American city. It’s an incredible affirmation of the leadership of Charlotte and what it has done over the past decade as far as investments they’ve made in the city.”

Smith said those investments include new uptown hotels and restaurants, a convenient transit system, expanded convention center, new arenas and other nightlife and cultural facilities.

“Uptown is ready,” he said. “We’ll serve as the convention village. It will be a mile-and-a-half square that’s safe and walkable, which will offer an incredible experience for the delegates and guests. This is the next natural step for us.”

“Our work and investments have brought us to this point,” he said. “This is an incredible opportunity to introduce Charlotte to the rest of the world as both a destination and as a center of influence.”

Mohammad Jenatian, president of the Greater Charlotte Hospitality and Tourism Alliance, said Charlotte’s winning of the convention is the result of city officials and the hospitality industry working for many years to make the city a top convention and travel destination.

“Being able to get an event like this sends a strong global message that Charlotte has arrived as a convention destination,” he said.

In addition to the economic impact of the convention itself, the bigger impact will stem from Charlotte now being able to attract conventions that ordinarily wouldn’t have considered the city, he said.

“Now everybody will want to learn more about Charlotte and what the city has to offer to make it possible for us to get the Democratic National Convention,” he said. “This is certainly a very proud day for our community.”

Ronnie Bryant, president and CEO of the Charlotte Regional Partnership, which promotes the Charlotte area to businesses considering an expansion or relocation, said the convention gives Charlotte instant credibility and mass exposure.

“The convention will raise the visibility of the Charlotte region on a number of different fronts, both domestically and internationally, and there’s no other way we could get this much recognition this quick,” he said.

The convention will also bring to the city members of the national and international media who have never been to Charlotte, he said.

Bryant said some of Charlotte’s biggest venues, such as the NASCAR Hall of Fame and the Levine Cultural Center, are also sure to benefit from the convention.

“Many people coming to the convention will bring their families, and during downtime they’re going to want to take advantage of the attractions we have in the city,” he said. “All this underscores that the investments we’ve made in this community towards building cultural amenities has truly paid off, and now we’re playing on the big stage.”

Sam Boykin can be reached at sam.boykin@mecktimes.com.

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