Political Conventions Don’t Bring Economic Benefits To Host Cities
Much like hosting the Olympics, being the host city for one of America’s major political party conventions does not tend to help the economy of the host city:
Cities that host political conventions can rake in as much as a quarter-billion dollars or as little as nothing. It depends on who’s doing the math—and what’s in the forecast.
The 2004 and 2008 conventions contributed anywhere from $155 million to $265 million to their host regions, according to city and political-committee estimates. This year, Tampa and Charlotte expect to see as much as $200 million each from the two conventions, according to officials with the host committees. But outside economists say that such projections may exaggerate gains and fail to count losses. The economic effect, they contend, is probably closer to zero.
“Cities are good at adding and multiplying,” said Victor Matheson, an associate professor at the College of the Holy Cross who specializes in sports economics and the impact of so-called mega-events, such as the Super Bowl or the Olympics. “They’re not good at subtracting.”
In a 2009 study, Matheson and two colleagues reviewed every national political convention hosted between 1972 and 2004, comparing 14 convention towns with 36 similar regions. None of the 18 conventions over that span had any impact on personal income or local employment in the host city, they found.
“There’s no statistically significant evidence that national political conventions make substantial economic contributions to cities,” said Douglas Frechtling, the chairman of George Washington University’s Department of Tourism and Hospitality Management, who teaches graduate courses on destination economics and reviewed the available literature related to conventions. If anything, Matheson and his colleagues were not conservative enough, Frechtling said.
There’s no doubt some prestige associated with hosting a convention, and the week-long media coverage arguably contributes some degree to publicity for tourism and such, but as a money-maker political conventions don’t bring in nearly as much money for local economies as their promoters like to claim.