Cleveland Plays the Long Game

Author: David McMillin       

Emily Lauer

The range in spending documented by two different reports about the 2016 Republican National Convention has fueled questions about the exact amount of short-term impact the event had on Cleveland’s economy. But Emily Lauer, senior director of public relations and communications for Destination Cleveland, told Convene that city officials were equally focused on feeling the effects that would come much later. “Political conventions are not economic engines,” Lauer said. “You host them to enhance long-term growth, change, or improve perceptions and build awareness.”

Several projects were accelerated to be ready in time for the RNC, including the 600-room Hilton Cleveland Downtown, an overhaul of Public Square park, renovations at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, and city-wide beautification efforts. In addition to physical enhancements that will stand for years to come, Lauer said, the media coverage throughout the week of the convention continues to make a difference. “The thousands of story placements about Cleveland’s economic, cultural, and residential assets,” she said, “have contributed to changed perceptions of the area and increased awareness of the city’s strong advantages as a place to live, work and do business, play, and visit.”

That awareness has trickled down to the city’s meetings business, too. When Cleveland was awarded hosting rights for the 2016 RNC in July 2014, the city averaged 43 leads per month for future conventions and meetings. Today, according to Lauer, it’s more than 75 leads each month. “From the day Cleveland started its pursuit to host one of the 2016 national political conventions, one of our primary reasons for doing so was the long-term benefit,” Lauer said. “Hosting the convention has helped put Cleveland back in the consideration set of meeting planners.”

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