Last updated: 05:00 AM ET, Tue April 19 2016

Tourism Officials Discuss Detroit's Destination Comeback

Destination & Tourism | Janeen Christoff | April 19, 2016

Tourism Officials Discuss Detroit's Destination Comeback

PHOTO: It's time to take a new look at Detroit. (courtesy Thinkstock)

Detroit is a great American city in the middle of a major comeback – and it now has a new ad campaign that showcases its amazing progress. Ads began airing on national television and on YouTube and a digital campaign is running online – so don’t be surprised if you are hearing a lot about the city in the coming months

Travel Michigan’s vice president Dave Lorenz says that its important to transform people’s perceptions on what is changing in Detroit.

“This campaign is important to Detroit and the entire state of Michigan. People should have a better understanding of what is happening in Detroit,” said Lorenz. “What so many people don’t know is that the city has been on a real unbelievable renaissance over the last four or five years. We decided at Travel Michigan, along with the Detroit Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau, that this is America’s comeback city.”

Lorenz explained that what makes a great comeback city is the people, emphasizing that the people need to buy into the rebuilding effort in order to make a city great again.

“The people are the real essence and heart of this story. Everything has come together at the right time – the entrepreneurial community, the business community, the government and the people – the timing was right.”

Lorenz said that he enjoys a more rural lifestyle and was less in tune with city life but was truly inspired by Detroit.

“I had my doubts that Detroit would be able to do this,” he said. “I didn’t think I would like a place where people were forced to live so close to each other. But I learned that the American dream can still be realized.”

Lorenz said that visitors will see a real sense of community on display in Detroit, noting that people mow their own park lawns and that there is an abundance of public art on display.

“This is one of the only cities where people are moving back,” Lorenz said. “Social media is a big driver of this. Young people are making it happen. They want to be part of a growing city and part of the solution.”

The new ad campaign is part of the driving force aimed at continuing Detroit’s current momentum and showcasing the city’s opportunity.

“The images are extraordinary,” said Lorenz. “Downtown Detroit is blossoming in cool and vibrant ways. There are world-class opportunities for people through art and culture.”

Travel Michigan is running outdoor billboards that are focused on simplistic messaging and enticing imagery, for example one is a cityscape with the words “come back.”

“We are telling the world about these unique things that they can see when they come and visit Detroit.”  

While the official age demographic of the campaign skews to ages 18-49, Lorenz noted that it really includes everyone.

“These are the people who are the influencers and the doers,” he said. “They are starting their paths and maybe they are coming because they see opportunity. The campaign is a coming out party for the city for both leisure travelers and as an invitation for those looking to come and perhaps start a business, open an office, etc.”

For visitors heading to Detroit, they will notice a transformation within the city.

“The business happenings are pretty phenomenal in downtown,” said Lorenz.  There are a lot of tech companies opening, and the auto companies are thriving right now. Young engineers are coming to Detroit.”

Some of the most intriguing things happening in the city include a boom in architecture and the reclaiming of old spaces.

“In a city that couldn’t afford to tear down buildings, now we have this unique connection with architecture. Buildings have been repurposed and there’s a blending of architectural styles,” said Lorenz.

The Woodward Corridor, which covers the Greater Downtown Area, is where the first mile of pavement was put in. Now there are new buildings going up and old ones are being repaired.

A new hockey arena for the Detroit Red Wings is connecting neighborhoods and spurring development.

“There’s so much empty land here to build on,” said Lorenz. “It’s the most of any major city.”

Lorenz also noted that the city now understands the importance of light rail and a new rail system is being constructed to connect the city.

“Downtown has been developing for 15 years,” he said. “Midtown has been developing for about 10. Now they will be linked by this new hockey center.”

Lorenz said that Detroit is definitely not a city without problems. That the rebuilding effort is not done – it is ongoing.

“We continue to work in the neighborhoods,” he said. “There is a lot of blight removal and a lot is being used for gardens and green spaces. People have come together and decided to make this happen.”

Pure Michigan has invested about 1 million into this project and is dedicated to bringing people back to Detroit to see its amazing transformation.

“I think that this is such an important redevelopment that people will be writing about it for a century. This is how urban redevelopment should happen. It’s important that everyone understand that this gateway to the state of Michigan is coming back.”

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