The 2016 Republican National Convention left the greater Cleveland area a combined economic impact of $188.4 million, according to Tourism Economics, "the national leader in event impact analysis" commissioned by the 2016 RNC Host Committee to study the event. Direct spending alone accounted for some $110 million across a seven-county region during the week of July 18-21 last year.
Compared to political conventions held since 2008, that figure is fair-to-middling. Still, the report is glowing. (Read the full thing below.)
Much like past conventions the convention paid off for downtown hotels (99-percent occupancy that week, with average daily rates nearing $200) and private event spaces, while local bars and restaurants struggled
to attract customers.
But the Tourism Economics report joins an April 2017 report published by Cleveland State University — and also commissioned by the Host Committee — in underscoring the significance of this event in terms of advancing Cleveland's own narrative toward a national audience. (Arriving on the heels of an NBA title didn't hurt, either.)
CSU, it's worth noting, posited a $142-million "total economic output" from the RNC for the region, including $67.8 million in direct spending. The two groups, of course, used different methodologies in their studies.
As reported prior to the RNC, it's sometimes difficult to reconcile the short-term impact of an event like that against a narrative like Cleveland's "renaissance" — slower, long-term growth from local consumers and businesses and marketing gurus. CSU stated that "it can be argued that the RNC displaced economic activity already occurring in downtown Cleveland, and the region lost value in terms of spending and productivity."
But it's not every day that 15,000 credentialed media folks visit your city, especially when 76 percent of their stories are "positive or neutral" in tone, as Tourism Economics puts it. "Negative" media coverage is never defined, but one supposes that it might include more on-the-ground approaches to elucidating the ills befalling Cleveland's poorest and most segregated neighborhoods, like this Slate piece
. Agreeing to take on a political convention is, at the end of the day, a bet on the long-term perception
of a city, which is a word that comes up often in both RNC reports. It's also a big party for the well-heeled, as Slate
(Dig into the weeds of how city leaders and Cleveland brand professionals discuss media activity here
The bottom line seems sound to David Gilbert, president and CEO of the Cleveland 2016 Host Committee, who said that "both studies confirm what we already knew: political conventions provide platforms for long-term impact in addition to short-term financial infusions. That bottom line mirrors our goals from the day Cleveland was chosen as the host city: the Convention infused revenue into our economy that wouldn’t have otherwise been realized, and, possibly more importantly, it launched Cleveland on a national and international trajectory in regard to awareness and reputation."