Last year, 16.5 million people visited Detroit, from which $9.2 million was generated for the economy. The city was cited in Conde Nast, Afar Magazine and Architectural Digest as a top destination to travel to in 2024.
“Detroit is unmistakably on the way up, and tourism/travel is a phenomenal economic engine putting thousands to work in our region,” said Chris Moyer, senior director of communications at Visit Detroit.
What are they coming to Detroit for?
Moyer says innovation, music, culture, and industry.
“Primarily, we see visitation that stems from Detroit’s central role as the home of American innovation,” said Moyer. “Detroit changed the automotive world, boasts having the very first paved road, the first stop sign, and now the first EV charging road. It’s about innovation to this day and that inspires millions of people to come to Southeast Michigan.”
He says many more millions come for the music. “Detroit launched soul, Motown and techno. We have so many phenomenal artists that draw so many people to the city,” says Moyer. “It’s becoming a true travel destination.”
With the 16th largest convention center in the U.S. at the center of downtown – Huntington Place – and the Novi Suburban Showplace one might think conventions and business travel are the drivers, but 60% of those coming to Detroit today are coming for leisure.
Moyer points to past decades where the seeds of success were planted, saying, “In the 1950’s Detroit was one of the wealthiest cities in the world. Then conversely in the 80’s and 90’s it was at the height of its challenges related to crime and poverty but throughout its history, the seeds were planted for it to be what it is today.”
Visit Detroit launched 127 years ago and is the oldest Visitor’s Bureau in the world, but it’s reinventing itself with a significant focus on sustainability.
“Our whole industry is on a journey when it comes to sustainability,” said Moyer. “We have to acknowledge that everything humans do impacts the planet and other people. But I’m particularly proud of the work we are doing on sustainability at the Bureau and as a city. We are focusing on a holistic vision of integrated sustainability and destination stewardship.”
He goes on to say, “We are working to mitigate our carbon footprint but also make sure that the people in Southeast Michigan benefit from tourism and the meeting convention and event economy.
Visit Detroit vets partners and assists destination venues like hotels and convention centers to enlist sustainable partners.
Says Moyer about sustainability as it relates to Detroit, “Detroit is one of the most compelling sustainability stories, and part of what will make us this destination is the commitment and transformation we are experiencing right now. As the producer of the automobile that in and of itself is an environmental degradation but now we are the leader in EV conversion. I like to say that Detroit is going from the Arsenal of Democracy to the Arsenal of Decarbonization. Visit Detroit is helping to champion this in all of our communications.”
Regarding the immediate future, Visit Detroit is focused on the NFL Draft which Moyer says is a big win that will draw thousands to the city and put Detroit in a global spotlight for three days in April.
“A billion people watch the Superbowl on TV and 60,000 to 70,000 visitors head to the host city for the event, but the NFL Draft involves 32 teams, is multiple days, and is a free event. This is huge for Detroit and it will be a party.”
Moyer also points to the fact that there are six teams within a five-hour drive from Detroit, so expectations are high in terms of the turnout.
The draft will feature and enlist areas throughout all Metro Detroit, with the heart of the activity scheduled for Campus Martius, Heart Plaza, and the Riverwalk.
When asked about the state of Detroit now, Moyer says, “Detroit is an unfinished story and that’s a great way to be. It is not a ‘mission accomplished,’ it is on this continuum of getting better and better.”
In closing, regarding what is driving the revitalization he says, “Clearly, it’s investment, but it’s also the people. The people of Detroit are telling the story in a welcoming and inclusive way. Visit Detroit is proud to be a part of this positive story by bringing Detroit to the world and the world to Detroit.”
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