While Charlotte has the experience of the 2012 Democratic National Convention under its belt, much has changed both in the city and in the political climate in the years since.
Charlotte’s hotel industry is one of the fastest-growing in the city.
Bernard Nelson worked in an uptown hotel during the 2012 DNC. He says many people were turned away and forced to stay outside the area.
“Because of the accommodations that we didn’t have to cater towards those guys,” he said.
Nelson says there was a lack of center city rooms for the thousands of visitors.
“It was a big aspect of us not being able to accommodate a lot of the staff members,” he added.
So, with the city gunning for the 2020 Republican National Convention – what has changed?
WBTV uncovered hotel growth numbers from the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority (CRVA), which submitted that bid for the RNC.
The Charlotte region has built nearly 6,000 hotel rooms since the Democrats came to town. Nearly 1,900 will be built by the end of 2018.
“Really, the DNC was an important inflection point for us where people said, ‘Oh, maybe Charlotte can handle big events,’” CRVA CEO Tom Murray says.
Murray adds that certainly, nothing is set in stone as the Republicans now consider Charlotte and Las Vegas for their final 2020 decision.
“You’ll see that Las Vegas has hotels that are 2,000 rooms in one hotel,” he said. “And we may have to go to five or six or seven or 10 hotels just to get two thousand rooms.”
Murray says the existing near-5,400 center city rooms could handle another big political convention.
“Say [the conventions] create economic impact of $200,000,” Murray said. “We do $6.7 billion of activity in the hotel and hospitality industry every year. So even though they’re huge, the engine that is the hospitality industry is even bigger.”
Amid lingering concerns over security and potential tension an event like the RNC can bring, many in Charlotte are still asking – why does Charlotte want the event so much?
“One in nine people in our community work in that industry,” Murray said. “And they depend on us and the leaders in our community to keep these hotels and this industry vibrant.”
Murray and his team are now waiting for the Republicans to make their decision between Charlotte and Las Vegas. That decision is expected in July.
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