Hey everyone, long time no see! I’m smack dab in the middle of summer con season, but today I wanted to share an interesting infographic sent my way last week. It highlights the economic impact of Comic Con on the local community. Now, this shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, since many of us who routinely attend cons knows about the beneficial impact of the convention on local business. In a word, powerful. Whether it be a con the size of SDCC/NYCC, or even one as small as BAMcon (which I attended last weekend), conventions bring people to a central location, and give them plenty of spaces to spend their money.
By now, I’m sure most of you know about the economic impact of Otakon on Baltimore. For years it has been voted one of the best events in the City, because of both its draw and the colorful characters who parade around the Inner Harbor each summer. Anime Boston has been given similar accolades, infusing a wonderful dose of character and culture into an already overflowing urban center known for being colorful in its own right. But aside from them, many smaller towns and cities benefit from having the con in town.
Normally, this is where I would throw the pilgrimage analogy out there: from Reader to Turner, the economic impact of the pilgrimage (or indeed any specialized, collective gathering of like-minded folks) universally builds up local markets and pumps much-needed capital into the surrounding area. As far back as Durkheim’s day, annual ritual events would come with their own purveyors of goods, alongside any local merchants willing to set up shop. Much like a modern dealer’s room, in many cases. But there were also the local shops and cafes that would exist on the periphery, for those “adventurous” enough to venture outside the “sacred space,” in search of new experiences. I’ve written before about the parallels between fan conventions and sacred events, so no need to elaborate that again. It’s one of the constants involved in travel.
A good recent example would be this year’s Zenkaikon event, held in Lancaster. Local businesses spread the word about discounts and offers to people in cosplay, there was at least one special menu I ran across for anyone wearing a badge, and local vendors had a ball talking with the attendees about why they were there, why they were dressed up, and how much fun the event was. Cons bring people together, give them a positive demeanor, and contribute to a good deal of generosity from both vendor and attendee.
Now Zenkaikon is a mid-sized convention held in a small city. Imagine the kind of impact a giant convention would hold on a major city?
Back in 2007, I attended the first New York Anime Fest. Back then, I was just a fan, looking for a good time. One of the limitations that year, however, was the location of the Javits Center in NY. Access to food required a solid walk away from the con, which few people back then were willing to undertake. Fast forward to 2009, and the convention book was actively highlighting local places to hit up for food or additional “geek culture” goods. The partnership continues today.