Lonely Planet, one of the largest travel book publishers in the world, is set to name Detroit the second best city in the world to visit in 2018, the latest national distinction in a growing list of them that officials say adds up to a lot of buzz.
Even celebrities, such as actor and former rapper Mark Wahlberg, are singing the city's praises.
But, even if Detroit wasn't No. 1 in the Lonely Planet ranking, folks who closely follow these lists said they will gladly take No. 2 — for now.
"It's damn good!" said Larry Alexander, head of the Detroit Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau, given Lonely Planet's reputation, reach and influence. "This is gigantic for Detroit to be included. I'll take No. 2 and be very happy."
The travel publication's announcement, set for Tuesday morning, follows a bid by Detroit to become the second headquarters of Seattle-based Amazon.com, and recognition earlier this year by the New York Times that it is a top travel destination.
Consider that just four years ago, Detroit was No. 1 for something far less distinguished, the largest municipality in America to file for bankruptcy.
In September, FBI statistics showed Detroit was No. 1 as the most violent big city in America, and earlier this month an online financial news group, 24/7 Wall St., ranked Detroit as the No. 1 worst American city to live in.
Still, Detroit, Alexander said, has about 19 million visitors annually who spend more than $6 billion.
Lonely Planet's announcement, he added, is expected to give that a big boost.
“This year, Detroit emerged as one of the top 10 cities to visit in 2018, sitting alongside cities including Oslo and Matera,” said Lonely Planet Managing Editor Alex Howard. "While it’s been on our travel experts' radar for years now, all the momentum we've seen has really put Detroit firmly on the map as a travel destination for both domestic and international travelers."
The top spot on the Lonely Planet list went to Seville, Spain. But, Detroit beat out Canberra, Australia; Hamburg, Germany; Kaohsiung, Taiwan; Antwerp, Belgium; Matera, Italy; Guanajuato, Mexico; and Oslo, Norway.
San Juan, Puerto Rico, the only other American city in the top 10, was No. 8.
What made the travel publisher take notice of Detroit?
Howard, who is expected to be in Detroit on Wednesday to help the city celebrate its honor, praised Detroit for its new hotels, stadiums, parks, improved public transportation, and, what, he called the city's "ever-present creative energy and innovation."
It's not the first time Detroit has gotten recognition for its comeback story.
In January, the New York Times travel section put Detroit on its annual list of 52 Places to Go, showing off the Rivera Court at the Detroit Institute of Arts. That list put the Motor City in the company of Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming, the Great Barrier Reef, and Laikipia, Kenya.
Last week, Inc. magazine now has Detroit in the running — in the top five — for Amazon’s second headquarters, HQ2.
Over the weekend, Wahlberg — a former hip-hop group frontman who was born outside Boston and now speaks glowingly about Michigan — said he thinks Amazon should pick Michigan as its home for its HQ2. He has made "Transformers" movies in Detroit and has a restaurant in Greektown.
"There's so many talented people here," he said, promising to lobby on the state's behalf.
The analysis in Inc. by Marty Pupil, president of U.S. Brokerage at Colliers International, a commercial real estate services firm, concluded Detroit was a contender because it would be “a triumph for Amazon from a public relations standpoint.”
Pupil's take on Detroit: "There aren't many cities that could offer Amazon a truly urban environment with an incredibly business-friendly local government and affordable housing," and "in one fell swoop, Amazon could be the catalyst for the rebuilding of one of America's great cities."
Amazon said Monday were 238 proposals from communities across North America.
A selection is expected in 2018.
Sandy Baruah, CEO of the Detroit Regional Chamber, said that while being included on among top contenders are nice accolades, the work and end goal of the chamber and other groups is far more important.
"Make no mistake, we're in this to win it," Baruah said Monday the team seeking to land the Amazon headquarters. "No one in this group is vying for second place. Having said that, there is tremendous value in this exercise even if we don't win it."
The process, he said, is uniting the city and suburbs, government and private sectors and various groups throughout the for a common purpose.
"At the end of the day, there is a national narrative about Detroit which is based on the reality of what's happening on the ground," he added. "The fact is not just the nation — but the world — is rooting for the city."
Top 10 cities
1. Seville, Spain
2. Detroit, USA
3. Canberra, Australia
4. Hamburg, Germany
5. Kaohsiung, Taiwan
6. Antwerp, Belgium
7. Matera, Italy
8. San Juan, Puerto Rico
9. Guanajuato, Mexico
10. Oslo, Norway
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