Detroit's Hot New Economy: Misery Tourism

Step right up and see all the depressing, abandoned buildings!

By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff

Posted Dec 26, 2013 11:20 AM CST

(Newser) – Detroit's economy is famously not exactly booming, but the city does have one burgeoning industry: Tourism. Since the city declared bankruptcy, hotels tell the LA Times that they've seen more visitors coming intent on gawking at some of the city's roughly 78,000 abandoned buildings. Restaurants in Corktown, which is strategically located near an abandoned train station, confirm that, and one tour guide the paper talked to said he'd recently upgraded to a 12-seat van.

For $45, former aircraft mechanic Jesse Welter will lead visitors into derelict churches, once-luxurious high-rises, the deserted ballroom where the Who held their first US concert and more—often climbing fences or crawling on hands and knees along the way. It's technically illegal, but police say they don't mind. And visitors are impressed. "It's really a once-in-a-lifetime thing you're going to see," said one British tourist. "You can really feel the history of a city. In Europe when things become derelict, they'll demolish them." Detroit hasn't—in large part because it doesn't have the money.

In a photo from Monday, Dec. 2, 2013, an empty field in Brush Park, north of Detroit's downtown is shown with an abandoned home.
In a photo from Monday, Dec. 2, 2013, an empty field in Brush Park, north of Detroit's downtown is shown with an abandoned home.   (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, File)
Water shoots against a wall from a pipe in the basement of an abandoned home on Chalmers Street in Detroit, Oct. 29, 2013.
Water shoots against a wall from a pipe in the basement of an abandoned home on Chalmers Street in Detroit, Oct. 29, 2013.   (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
In this July 27, 2011 file photo, a section of vacant stores is shown in Detroit.
In this July 27, 2011 file photo, a section of vacant stores is shown in Detroit.   (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, file)
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