Report: Denver's rep a growing concern for tourism officials

City losing conventions, business
Posted at 6:43 PM, Jul 15, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-15 20:51:57-04

A survey by Visit Denver shows concern about Denver's "growing reputation" for safety challenges, homeless youth and public pot consumption is scaring away conventions.

"First impressions of Denver? You do have a lot of homeless people which I'm shocked, practically on every street corner," said Natahsa Maraj, who is visiting Denver from London for a convention. "Would I return? I don't know to be honest."

In a report by VISIT DENVER presented last December, homeless youth, panhandling and public mariajuana use are the top complaints.

It features scathing comments from national event planners:

"We will most likely not return to Denver based on the current situation with all of the street people."

"I would never consider putting attendees in danger by holding a convention in your city... I have felt much safer in downtown NYC, Philly, Seattle and Chicago."

However, since that survey, the city and downtown business partners have been working to clean up that image, increasing police presence, closing off certain alleys and hiring a private security consultant.

John Desmond with the Downtown Denver Partnership said they are "re-activating" the Mall, using lighting, art and events such as Meet in the Street (going on for the next two weekends.)

"I would say come downtown in the last few weeks things have changed," said Desmond. "There's a much better vibe."

VISIT DENVER sent this statement by email:

“We were asked to provide 2013-14 survey data to City Council seven months ago that outlined any critical issues associated with the downtown visitor experience,” said Richard Scharf, president and CEO of VISIT DENVER. “We commend the Mayor, City Council, the police chief and the Downtown Denver Partnership for their efforts to address these issues head on. We remain proud that we have generated 10 years of tourism and convention growth and we are optimistic this success will continue for Denver.”