Seafood Festival Reporting 'Real' Numbers

If you’re looking for a conundrum, try figuring out how many people are in a large audience.  Thunder Beach’s numbers change all the time.  This past summer I was told by their General Manager that they have 80,000 bikes here over the weekend and have heard ranges in years past from 30,000 to 60,000.  How do they know how many people are here?  They make the numbers up, based on their best-guess estimates – it’s not real scientific.

The Panama City Beach Seafood Wine and Music Festival has had a much more legitimate approach over the last couple years, this year no different.  They’ve counted ticket sales, which has enabled even organizers and the Panama City Beach Convention and Visitor’s Bureau a much better idea of what the reality is, regarding how many people these types of events actually bring to the Panama City Beach area.

Note: to Thunder Beach’s credit, they are not a ticketed event, and it would be very difficult, nay, impossible to determine exactly how many bikers are here for their event.  I will also say that this event has been VERY successful in bringing people into the area, “putting heads in beds”, and helping extend the season bringing money into Panama City Beach.

The Panama City Beach Seafood Wine and Music Festival had their best year ever, but quoting one of the event organizers, Jack Bishop, “The private sector can’t continue to shoulder all the risk while the public stands to benefit from the event.”

This year’s event drew a total of 20,325 people over three days, with Sunday night, the night Lynyrd Skynyrd played, selling around 10,000 tickets.

Another unique thing that was brought to the table this year by Bishop’s group was an economic impacts study.  Quoting Bishop again, “Anytime public money is invested in an event, the event should be supported by an economic impact study that can provide real data on the public return on investment.”  Here are the results of the economic impact study from the Panama City Beach Seafood Wine and Music Festival:

  • Total attendees: 20,325
  • From feeder markets: Panama City, Destin, Dothan, Tallahassee, Atlanta, Birmingham, Orlando, Pensacola, Montgomery, Columbus, Huntsville, and Tampa.
  • 63% from outside Bay County – 12,724
  • Was the event the main reason you visited PCB – 51% yes, 49% no.  26% pleasure or vacation and 11% were visiting family.
  • How did you hear about the festival – 27% family/friends, 15% on the radio, 12% previously attended, 10% internet, 9% on TV
  • Average nights spent – 2.7
  • Average party size – 3.5
  • Daily expenditures per party – $346.11
  • Plan to return to event – 91%
  • Plan to return to area – 79% near future, 56% next six months, 80% next 12 months
  • Where did they spend their money – 39% on lodging, 27% on Restaurants, 14% on shopping, 11% on attractions or events, 4.6% on groceries and convenience stores, and 3% on ground transportation.
  • Visitor experience and satisfaction – 81% said the event was “excellent” and 87% said Panama City Beach was “excellent”
  • Results of the economic impact study
    • $2.3 million in direct visitor spending
    • $3.3 million in total economic impact
    • $875,488 went to wages of workers in Panama City Beach

All in all, this event is being considered very successful.  Jack Bishop announced previously that he had no intention of continuing as a stakeholder in this event in the future, unless the risk balance was changed.  However, the viability of the event, and it’s impact on the area seems clear as it appears to be doing it’s job in bringing people in market, from out of market.

Due to the many months of planning required for this event, a decision will need to be made by the Tourist Development Council on how the event will be handled in the future by early spring.  Bishop was heard mentioning that if he wasn’t forced to take so much risk, he’d be willing to continue to work with the festival.

Event Pictures

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