Kickstarter campaigns can bring a lot of ideas to life these days. In the case of some determined Robocop fans in Detroit, Kickstarter has brought a 10-foot tall bronze Robocop sculpture to the city. Though the exact final location of the statue has yet to be determined, this will soon be a permanent Detroit fixture. And once it has found its forever home in Detroit, Robocop fans will undoubtedly begin making plans to visit it. The construction of this project is still underway. The above video shows the current status of the Detroit Robocop.
Elmore Leonard, the “Dickens of Detroit,” died this morning at 87. A prolific novelist and screenwriter, Leonard may have captured and defined the soul of his home city better than any travel writer.
When he began writing westerns in the 1950s, he could have relocated to Los Angeles. When his films began to attract major stars, he could have given up the hard-scrabble city for cushier surroundings. Yet Leonard stayed put.
He was born in New Orleans, but his family relocated to Detroit by the time he was nine. He attended school in the Motor City, later graduated from the University of Detroit, and started his writing career there in a spartan basement workspace. Many of his 46 novels were set there. When his character Jack Ryan (of Highland Park) served papers to a rock band live onstage, it was at the Masonic Temple of Detroit – 500 Temple St. When a scene in the film “Out of Sight” called for a boxing gym, Leonard took us to the Kronk Gym at 5555 McGraw St.
While he’d paint images of dusty western towns quite removed from Detroit, the city was never far from those saloons and open plains of 1950s Hollywood. It informed the snappy dialogue of his seedy characters and the urban feel of his tightly written work. The balance of black humor and danger he found in Detroit became a trademark of his work. It was evident in his films (“Get Shorty,” “Jackie Brown,” “3:10 to Yuma,”) and even his most recent work, the FX series, “Justified.”
Just last year he said that despite the poverty of the area, he couldn’t leave -– and he never did. He had been hospitalized after suffering a stroke earlier this month, but returned to his Bloomfield Village home where he died.
TV shows and movies have been inspiring people to travel for decades, and I’m sure many of us can relate to wanting to jet off to Paris or sip wine in Tuscany after seeing some on-screen character do just that.
But travel booms can also happen in the unlikeliest of places. Take for example the hit TV show Breaking Bad, which has sparked a surprising tourism boom in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The show about a high school chemistry teacher turned methamphetamine maker is not exactly a poster child for travel inspiration — in fact, the local tourism board didn’t even promote the show until it started filming its fifth season.
But while some locals dislike being associated with the show’s themes of drugs and violence, it’s hard to deny the boost the show has provided to the local economy. Restaurants where the show films are packed to the brim, candy shops sell rock candy that looks like crystal meth and local guides are run off their feet running Breaking Bad tours across the city.So what other unlikely cities have benefited from being featured on screen? We rounded up three destinations that became popular against the odds.
Detroit, Michigan: 8 Mile. This movie about white rapper Eminem’s attempt to launch his career attracted visitors to Detroit despite the film’s gritty portrayal of the Motor City. Tourists flocked to see the abandoned buildings, alleys embellished with graffiti and desolate landscape depicted onscreen.
Scranton, Pennsylvania: The Office. This long-running comedy was actually taped in California, but the tiny town of Scranton where the show is set experienced a surprising tourism boom as fans traveled to see their favorite landmarks from the show. The town of 76,000 fell on hard times after the coal industry collapsed in the 50s, but the recent TV-related tourism helped revitalize the downtown area with new restaurants and businesses.
Senoia, Georgia: The Walking Dead. This small town 25 miles south of Atlanta became a bustling tourist hub after a TV show about zombies was filmed there. Home to just over 3,000 people, Senoia attracted ten times that number in visitors who wanted to buy zombie-themed t-shirts and drink “Zombie Dark” coffee from the café featured in the show.
Have you ever visited a town because of a show that was filmed there?
Recently, the former automotive boomtown of Detroit made history by filing for bankruptcy, making it an easy butt of jokes on Twitter and in the news. However, Motown has also been making strides to become America’s great comeback city, with artists and entrepreneurs lured by cheap rents, and innovative projects happening all over town (disclosure: I’m a big fan of the city, and so is the New York Times‘ Frank Bruni). Detroit has more than a few great things going for it, including architecture, museums and sports, and tourist dollars could go a long way in helping the city recover. Can it become a tourist destination again?
Some of the top tourist destinations in the world were once no-go zones for travelers, suffering from financial crises, war, natural disasters and rampant crime. Here are a few of our favorite comeback cities:Berlin: One of the world’s most resilient cities, Berlin has been through war, occupation and one gigantic divide, and come back to thrive. In the decades following the fall of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of Germany, East Berlin in particular has become a hipster mecca, due to some of the lowest prices in western Europe for nightlife and a vibrant art and design scene. While not everyone welcomes the gentrification, the German capital is continuing to gain millions of foreign tourists each year.
Buenos Aires: A mix of hyperinflation, government corruption and mounting debt led to riots and an economic crisis in Argentina in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The country has stabilized and the peso value has risen, but it’s affordability has made it increasingly attractive to travelers in the last ten years, making it the No. 1 tourism destination in South America. Buenos Aires is opening more boutique hotels each year, ensuring a place every year on lists such as Conde Nast Traveler’s Hot List of new hotels.
New Orleans: A longtime favorite for the French Quarter and Bourbon Street, along with events like Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest, New Orleans was profoundly affected by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Tourism is the biggest source of employment in the city and a major factor to its economy, and the disaster made visitor numbers plummet. Louisiana’s recovery has been slow but steady, and major infrastructure improvements brought on by this year’s “Super Gras” have helped the Big Easy come back.
New York City: Visitors to the Big Apple have topped 50 million, spending billions of dollars in the city annually. While New York has never suffered from lack of tourists, the 1980s crack epidemic and surge in crime gave it an image of being a violent, dirty and dangerous city and visitor numbers dipped. Like Detroit, it also faced possible bankruptcy in 1975 and President Ford was infamously (mis)quoted to tell NYC to “drop dead.” The terrorist attacks in 2001 caused another slowdown in visitors, but it’s now one of the safest, most visited cities in the world.
Tokyo: While Tokyo was not as devastated by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami as other parts of Japan, it definitely felt the hurt with a sharp decline in tourism, major damage to national infrastructure, and radiation concerns. Foreign visitors are now exceeding the pre-disaster levels, though seismologists worry that an even bigger earthquake is due to hit Tokyo.
An honorable mention must go to the countries in the former Yugoslavia, especially Croatia and the cities of Belgrade and Sarajevo. Twenty years ago, who could have predicted the popularity of the Dalmatian coast as a beach destination, or the battle-scarred Serbian capital as a nightlife hotspot? They aren’t quite seeing the same tourism numbers as the destinations above, but they should be on your travel radar. Istanbul and Beirut are also favorites for their many comebacks and reinventions, though the effects from current events are already being seen in the local tourism industries.
With a budget deficit believed to be upwards of $380 million and long-term debt that could be as much as $20 billion, Detroit has officially filed for bankruptcy. The city’s dire situation is no laughing matter, but Twitter users have made the once mighty Motor City the butt of their jokes using the hashtag #NewDetroitCityMottos.
Here’s a slideshow with a few suggested tourism slogans that made us laugh and some that made us grimace: