Unconventional convention closes, plans to come back to Vancouver

Fans of anime gave downtown economic boost over weekend

By Dave Kern, Columbian assistant metro editor

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The Kumoricon crowd will be back in Vancouver next year.

And Steven Nelson of the Hilton Vancouver Washington says he’s as happy as an anime devotee that the brightly costumed conventioneers will rock the hotel in 2012.

More than 4,000 participants were here over the weekend for Kumoricon 2011, a celebration of the Japanese cartoon phenomenon.

“They are booked for next year,” Nelson, the hotel’s assistant general manager, said Monday. “This has been the largest convention of the year in terms of sheer number of people.”

“We’ve been delighted,” he said. “They have been great guests. They have been great for the city and downtown. I’m sure the local businesses downtown have benefitted.”

The hotel’s 226 rooms were all taken for the long weekend.

Any problems?

“We’ve had no major issues. It’s a group of very polite, courteous individuals,” Nelson said.

How about bar and food sales?

“It’s a dry convention. That’s how they’ve publicized it,” Nelson said. “We have had some great food sales throughout our hotel.”

He said sales were good at the hotel’s restaurant, Gray’s at the Park, and at the lobby coffee bar. He said an ice cream bar concession “was an enormous hit.”

He said sales also were good for sandwiches, pizza, chips, soda and bottled water available at the hotel.

“It’s been wonderful,” Nelson said, noting many conventioneers are teens and folks in their 20s.

Another downtown businessperson was happy about the convention.

“Anytime we can get that number of people into downtown, it helps infuse our restaurants and retail,” said Kim Bennett, president and CEO of the Vancouver USA Regional Tourism Office. “We keep trying to stress that it’s more than just the money spent on lodging and dining, that it also is supporting our employment here in Vancouver and Clark County.”

The convention was in downtown Portland last year.

Ally Fields, convention director of publicity, said conventiongoers have loved being in downtown Vancouver. “Everybody in Vancouver has been amazing,” she said during Sunday’s activities.

An employee of the Red Lion Hotel Vancouver at the Quay said the 160 rooms there also were full.

Participants were everywhere in downtown, including at Esther Short Park, the Vancouver Farmers Market, at eateries and in vintage clothing shops.

Asked for his opinion on the dress of the participants, the Hilton’s Nelson ventured, “I would say it is not your typical business meeting. We had this group in 2007. We were very sad to see them go.”