Pitchfork Press

Cronkite Summer Journalism Institute 2012

Conventions bring big business to downtown Phoenix

The Phoenix Convention center draws crowds from all around the country, a cheaper alternative to their competition in Los Angeles.

The Phoenix Comic-Con draws thousands of comic, anime, manga and sci-fi fans to the downtown Phoenix Convention Center each year. The Renaissance Hotel recently sold out for the annual event. Yet downtown business remains slow, according to Renaissance Hotel Sales Manager Julie Terry.

“Our business from conventions is worse. Even though the economy is starting to turn around, large conventions have to book three, four, even up to eight years prior. When they booked for 2013, 2014 it was back in the recession,” Terry said.

The Renaissance recently merged with Marriott, a move that they said was due to economic troubles and the loyalty that Marriott would bring. Still, many of the hotels in downtown Phoenix depend on the conventions to bring new customers and tourists.

Not only are hotels and the convention center experiencing the benefits of tourists but also other local businesses feel the impact of ‘entertainment expenditures’ that convention-goers bring. Tourists spend money at surrounding shops, restaurants and theaters, including Cityscape, a new downtown entertainment center.

“Phoenix is very affordable, the rates are better because of the weather and you’re inside the whole time anyways,” Events and Administration Coordinator for the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism Keith Chandler said.

Hotels like the Renaissance, Sheraton and others are hoping that they will appeal to organizations looking to hold conferences in the Southwest. Phoenix serves as an alternative to California competition, a thriftier alternative.

The Renaissance Hotel in downtown Phoenix recently merged with the Marriott name, an economic move they say was for the best.

While the Los Angeles area holds many southwest conferences and conventions, Gold Canyon (candles), JuicePlus+, and Comic-Con all go through downtown Phoenix’s Renaissance Hotel for lodging, catering and other amenities. These events encourage business for the whole city, and encourage return vacationers and organizations.

The downtown area is also close to all centers of business.

“If you go out at night there’s not a lot of people, unless there’s a basketball game or baseball game. But during the day it’s hopping with the business crowd,” Chandler said.

The downtown area caters to the young, professional crowds. While Comic-Con is not considered as serious of an event as other conferences, corporations will find everything they need within budget in Phoenix.

Even SB1070 has affected the convention and hotel business in Downtown Phoenix. The uncertainty of the bill passing stunted tourism to the All-Star Game at Chase Field, and overall hindered vacationers from downtown Phoenix.

It is unclear whether the convention business will pick up, but what is clear is that hotels like the Renaissance and others downtown depend on conventions for business and traffic.

-Cassidy Trowbridge, Technology Editor

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