Flood of visitors pack downtown for Jehovah's Witness convention, Motor City Pride

Visitors coming back to Detroit

DETROIT - Detroit is marketed as a comeback city, and the message seems to be working. More conventions are coming downtown, bringing visitors and cash to the Motor City.

The Cobo Hall renovation has been cited as a major reason for Detroit's ability to draw bigger events.

The 10 hotels in downtown Detroit have about 4,800 rooms, and Detroit is on pace for breaking a record of 75 percent occupancy.

Rich Elias is visiting from St. Louis for a wedding and says that all of the city's stereotypes are untrue.

"It's more vibrant and alive than I thought it would be," Elias said.

This weekend, tour buses are bringing 45,000 people to and from Ford Field for the Jehovah's Witness convention and Motor City Pride is taking place at Hart Plaza.

"You need to come see Detroit before you make an opinion on it," said Eric Rivers, who was attending the Jehovah's Witness convention. "Because there are so many negative things surrounding it that may not be true that it's actually kind of surprising how nice the city really is."

Summer has just begun and there have already been three major events in the downtown area: The Hoedown, the Electronic Music Festival, the Gay Pride Parade and the Grand Prix, which put Detroit on the fast track towards a record number of visitors.

"110,000 people attended the Grand Prix races, which was the largest attended event since it came back to Detroit in 2007," said Detroit Metro Convention and Visitors Center's Bill Bohde.

The city estimates that the Grand Prix alone brought in $45-$50 million spent on events, restaurants and hotels.

"Occupancies are going up and what's also nice is rates are going up as well," said Crowne Plaza General Manager Charles Mahabir. "So people are paying a bit more to stay in the city of Detroit, which is nice."

The Ford fireworks are also coming up in a few weeks, which usually attract up to 700,000 people.

These festivals aren't just temporary boosts for Detroit, people are moving back to the area, especially young professionals. It's difficult to find a rental place in Midtown and real estate prices are arguably among the most competitive in the country.

There is still work to be done in Detroit, but it has come a long way.

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