Credit: Ed Newton

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Two years ago, Philadelphia hosted the pope, putting the city on what was likely its largest stage since the 2000 Republican National Convention. Last year we hosted the Democratic National Convention. And then this year brought us the NFL Draft.

In 2018, we have…The Flower Show? Tall Ships?

The NFL’s decision to spurn Philly for Dallas for the 2018 NFL Draft has left a void in the city. For the first time since 2015, we’ll be without a blockbuster event. Tourism and hotel agencies will need to adjust.

“We’re disappointed we didn’t get the draft,” said Ed Grose, executive director of the Greater Philadelphia Hotel Association. “But that’s also only one week out of the year. We look at the year as a whole.”

The hotel business has broken its occupancy record every year for the past few years, climbing to just short of 3.2 million nights in 2016, pushed ahead of the previous year’s 3.1 million total by the DNC. The NFL Draft didn’t bring as many hotel stays as expected — nor as much as the Democratic National Convention did in 2016 — and totals are anticipated to be slightly lower than 2016.

They might dip again in 2017, although Grose senses business and leisure travel will remain steady, as will the convention sector.

“We are enjoying a high profile right now,” he said. “Those big events definitely helped create that.”

Pope Francis delivers mass before hundreds of thousands on the Parkway. Credit: Screen capture

Meryl Levitz, president & CEO of Visit Philly, said “we’re going to be fine” without the NFL Draft or another major event. She noted the big events can sometimes even “squeeze out” other leisure or business conducted in the city.

In August, the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau published a report that stated the 2017 NFL Draft resulted in a $95 million economic impact for the city, exceeding the initial projections by $15 million. That number was based on three factors: direct spending, including the $20 million spent by the NFL and that of visitors to the city; indirect spending, or the business-to-business transactions required to host the event; and induced spending, or secondary and third-level impacts of the direct spending, including temporary job creation. More than 30,000 jobs were supported by the draft, per the CVB, a number that translated to 914 “full-time equivalent” jobs for the event.

Nearly $8 million was generated in state and local taxes alone and close to 19,000 hotel rooms nights were booked in the area, with the draft bringing in people from 42 states, including more than 1,800 media members. About 250,000 people flooded the Parkway for the three-day event, which was 50,000 more than the NFL expected, creating amazing visuals for an event people both in attendance and watching on national television are still raving about.

The draft, the pope and the DNC, Levitz said, were especially good for setting up Philadelphia for future tourism. Visit Philly has tracked people who’ve said in surveys they came for the pope and returned later, wanting to see sites or eat at restaurants they missed during their first trip. The company also has access to technology called Visa Vue. It tracks spending and allows Visit Philly to see repeat visitors. The group is seeing connections between pope visits and future visits.

“We have a lot in the bank you could say in terms of people who’ve had wonderful big event times,” Levitz said.

Meanwhile, with no major event, Grose is looking ahead to the next big thing, dreaming of Amazon like so many other business and political leaders.

“We’re told Amazon brings in about 230,000 room nights a year in Seattle,” he said. “That would be very big for us.”

For now, at least, there’s always the Flower Show. The not-quite blockbuster event still reportedly brings in $61 million a year.

Mark Dent is a reporter/curator at BillyPenn. He previously worked for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, where he covered the Jerry Sandusky scandal, Penn State football and the Penn State administration. His...