When I was communications director for the City of Detroit, I would receive calls from reporters all over the world who wanted to visit Detroit to ride around in a police cruiser or fire truck. I asked them, "Why?" Each one told me that they read stories about all the fires or crime in the city, and they wanted to see it for themselves.
That may have been Detroit a decade ago, but it is not the Detroit today. When reporters from other communities visit Detroit their perceptions change. In part because they had low expectations but more to the point because of past media stories about our city.
Each year, reporters from all over the world visit Detroit to witness the latest products being unveiled at the North American International Auto Show. Granted many of these reporters cover the auto industry and not travel, but they are still our guests and we want to make sure they have a positive experience in Detroit and take that experience home.
As I sat in Texas De Brazil at a client function after we attended the auto show's charity preview, I looked out the window to an empty street along Woodward in Campus Martius. I looked at the restaurant and saw empty tables. As I walked to my office in downtown Detroit this past Monday, the street (Jefferson) had pockets of people walking to and from Cobo, many even venturing up Woodward looking for a place to eat.
So during the auto show, particularly media week and the first week it opens, why don't we do more to create a festive atmosphere as we did during Super Bowl XL? For example, the Motown Winter Blast is a fantastic winter festival that will be held this year February 10-12, 2012. Why can't we have Winter Blast during media week? Imagine reporters from China and Germany racing down the toboggan run or roasting marsh mellows over an open fire in Campus Martius. Or what about staging outdoor concerts in Hart Plaza and Campus Martius for a few nights during media week to highlight Detroit's mix of music. Or why not Restaurant Week this week and feature Detroit's culinary treasurers, instead of waiting until the spring? Or perhaps have another Noel Night to feature our cultural secrets.
There is so much we can do as a city to highlight the good that we offer. Just as we did during Super Bowl XL, each of us served as ambassadors to our community to defeat the bad perception outsiders have to Detroit. Each year, after the first of the year, we have that same opportunity. The same opportunity to show the rest of the world, in addition to people from throughout the state, what a world-class city we actually are. You don't know Detroit, unless you experience Detroit. Yet, we need to give our guests more to taste, than just what lies inside Cobo. Next year, I encourage the Detroit Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy, Downtown Detroit Inc. and others to find ways to turn the downtown into a winter wonderland.