Streets of Philadelphia All Set for DNC

Days away from the Democratic National Convention, the City of Brotherly Love is ready to welcome conventioneers, delegates, and other visitors from both near and far.

Just how big is the Democratic National Convention (DNC) going to be?

Here are some numbers to give you an idea: 50,000 attendees expected, 92 hotels and 15,000 hotel rooms booked, 18,000 volunteers signed up, 1,090 signs displayed around the arena complex, and $250 million to $300 million pumped directly into the region’s economy.

We didn’t just want our convention visitors to be engaged. We wanted to make sure our residents and businesses were too.

In other words, the DNC will be huge.

And with a convention of this size, with so many high-profile and influential attendees, you better believe the Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau and Philadelphia 2016 Host Committee have been hard at work ever since the DNC was awarded to them in February 2015.

“But we’re ready and we’re excited,” said Julie Coker Graham, president and CEO of PHLCVB. “We know that all our hard work will pay off.”

Long Days, Long Nights

Hard work is right. Just like its Republican counterpart, which concluded last night in Cleveland, the DNC has required a lot of staff power and tens of thousands of hours of work by the local CVB.

“We filled in our staff to make sure we could handle all aspects of the meeting,” Coker Graham said.

One piece that demanded large amounts of time and energy was prepping hotels in the convention block on what to expect and how to best handle all the extra guests. The CVB held 92 preconference meetings with each of the hotels to give them the information they’ll need to best serve their guests, along with insight into how much the DNC means to the city.

“It was our way of helping them to not only understand the immediate revenue impact an event like this has, but also what it could mean in terms of their future business and of the city acquiring future meetings business,” she said.

Future Meetings Welcome

Having Philadelphia serve as the backdrop for a convention that garners worldwide media attention is a great way to highlight all the meeting venues and spaces the city has to offer—and hopefully encourage other convention business in the years ahead.

A unique way that the CVB is showcasing its meetings capabilities is by bringing in meeting planners ahead of the DNC to give them an inside look at the convention and the planning process.

Through Meeting Professionals International’s Experiential Event Series, 30-plus planners visited Philly this week to understand the planning behind a high-profile political event like the DNC. Attendees had the chance to interact and meet with key organizers and get behind-the-scenes tours of conference venues—all while receiving education in areas like security, media relations, transportation, housing, and managing volunteer staff.

“It was a great way for us to highlight what we have, what we’re doing for the DNC, and what we can do for any of our other customers,” Coker Graham said.

Fun for Everyone

Of course, PHLCVB and the Host Committee also realize that not everyone in Philadelphia will have VIP access to the floor of the Wells Fargo Center, where the DNC will take place. But that doesn’t mean they should miss out on the fun.

“We didn’t just want our convention visitors to be engaged,” said Coker Graham. “We wanted to make sure our residents and businesses were too.”

To that end, the CVB and Host Committee have put together lots of fun extra activities that anyone can take advantage of.

One is Politicalfest, a series of exhibitions that will celebrate American history, government, and the journey to the White House. Positioned at seven locations around the city, it incorporates interactive displays, artifacts, and special events. The National Constitution Center will act as a hub, and its exhibition, “Headed to the White House,” will allow visitors to examine the history and hoopla of electoral season.

Then there’s Donkeys Around Town, an installation of 57 fiberglass donkeys, each painted by a local artist to represent a participating convention delegation and placed in locations across Philadelphia. People are encouraged to participate in an app-based scavenger hunt to find all 57 donkeys.

Rounding it out is #DNCdeals, a hashtag that local businesses are being encouraged to use in social spaces to spread the word about exclusive deals or specials they’ll be offering during convention week. Visitors might find a DNC-inspired $20.16 prix fixe lunch on a local restaurant menu, for example.

“At the end of the day, this convention is really a moment for attendees, businesses, and residents to be engaged,” Coker Graham said. “No matter how you participate, you will really be a part of history, regardless of your political leanings.”

(G. Widman/Visit Philadelphia)

Samantha Whitehorne

By Samantha Whitehorne

Samantha Whitehorne is editor-in-chief of Associations Now. MORE

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