It’s not just the newly crowned World Champion Irish dancers who have been celebrating this week in Philadelphia — local businesses, who’ve had thousands of extra customers thanks to the competition, have also had a very good week.
With more than 6,000 dancers coming from the U.S., Ireland, the U.K. and beyond, bringing with them around 15,000 family members, friends and teachers, the impact the competition has had on the local economy is significant.
And a big part of the big lift came from "Lord of the Dance" Michael Flatley, who was a key sponsor of the competition and made several appearances to the delight of his worldwide fans.
According to the Philadelphia Convention and Business Center, it is expected that the Championships will inject around $11 million into the city’s economy.
Business at the Hampton Inn on Race Street, a couple of blocks away from the Marriott Hotel, (along with the Kimmel Center, this is where the World Championships were held), has been particularly good this week.
According to front desk manager Jesse Ranson, the hotel was booked to around 80 percent capacity this week. “Two weeks ago, if you had come here, the place was dead,” Ranson said. “This is real good business — we weren’t expecting this at all.”
At another hotel, the Doubletree, which is on the same street as the Marriott, business was also going well. The hotel was mostly booked throughout the week, said Ronnie Fluellen, who worked in the hotel’s gift shop. “It certainly wouldn’t be nearly as busy here without this,” said Fluellen. “Our busy season really doesn’t start until May.”
The most popular items in Fluellen’s shop this week? Surprisingly, a lot of the dancers, whom you might expect would be very health-conscious, had a real thing for candy and sodas.
Sitting in the Doubletree lobby were Jim Lucey and his daughter, Meghan, who was competing with the Pender-Keady School from Stanford, Connecticut. Most of their money this week, they explained, was going on food, taxis and entrance fees. Still, they weren’t complaining.
“Last year, we had to travel to Belfast for the Worlds,” said Lucey. “So it saves us a lot that we can just drive down here for this.”
According to Ann McNamee, who was manning the information desk of the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Center at the Kimmel Center this week, there were a number of differences in the kinds of questions she was asked, depending on the nationality of who was asking them.
“A lot of the Irish asked about fast food places and places to shop,” she said. Many of the Americans, McNamee said, asked about the “Rocky Steps.” Which is not, as this reporter initially thought, a hilly walkway, but the front steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Modern Art, and the location of a famous scene from the movie “Rocky.”
Business was also good for Ameur Derrouche, a taxi driver originally from Algeria, who came to the U.S. seven years. So good, in fact, that he told this (rather worried) reporter who was getting a ride at the time, that he hadn’t slept in 24 hours.
How did he find the dancers and their families? They were nice people, he replied – but could try tipping a little bit more.