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February 06, 2016

Conventions set to bring $1.1 billion to Philly

2015 bookings set record, bureau says

Business Conventions
Convention Center Thom Carroll/for PhillyVoice

The Pennsylvania Convention Center.

Democrats, brewers, engineers, funeral directors and a host of others are expected to bring a boatload of money to Philly in upcoming years.

The Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau (PHLCVB) said Friday that bookings in 2015 broke records, with 856,663 hotel room nights booked, a 1.2 percent jump from 2014.

The bureau claims 75 percent of those rooms were booked for a series of meetings and conventions, and the influx of visitors is expected to generate a whopping $1.1 billion impact on the Philadelphia economy. 

Of the 2015 convention bookings, 69 percent are returning customers, according to the PHLCVB.

The Philadelphia Business Journal reports that the positive numbers from the bureau follow a shakeup in the way the Convention Center deals with workers:

Antiquated work rules at the Convention Center held back the city's growth in the convention circle because major groups had been canceling their annual meetings from Philadelphia or avoiding the city altogether.

Only in May 2014 did things start to turn around when new work rules were put in place, signed by four of the Convention Center's six labor unions.

One of the biggest rule changes was allowing vendors to set up their own booths, which prompted the local Carpenters' union to refuse signing off on the agreement.

This past week, the union was consolidated into another regional branch and its leader was ousted, a move that another local union leader, Johnny "Doc" Dougherty, thinks may have come in part because of that refusal.

The biggest of the upcoming conventions is the Democratic National Convention, which is being held mainly at the Wells Fargo Center in July.

That event is being attended by roughly 40,000 people and will bring up to $300,000 to the city, the bureau said.