There are 30 events for which we have numbers so far in 2005. (As of October 30) Those events have drawn a total of 396,965 visitors to Middletown. Of those, approximately 48% are from outside the city. There are several more events yet to be held in Middletown in 2005 and several events for which we do not yet have attendance figures. For instance, we have no figures for the motor coach tour groups who stay in Middletown hotels, the church conventions held here, class and family reunions, opponent sports teams bringing their fans to town for games with Fenwick, Middletown Christian and MUM. (We do have Middletown High School numbers.)
How do we get those figures?
The groups who receive grants from the CVB are required to turn in a crowd count and other economic impact statistics. Other events have ways to estimate or make accurate counts which they share with us. Some estimate their counts on the high side, some on the low side. Many forget to count those who attend two or more days – such as the participants and volunteers. They also spend money in Middletown.
Ohio Challenge Hot Air Balloon Festival has volunteers who sit near the main entrance and count the people who come in that gate. Then we multiply by 3 to account for the streams of people who enter via the footbridge, the city garage entrance, Wilbraham Road and Airport Road. No attempt is made to count the ones who watch the balloon launches from across the airport on Carmody Blvd or from other vantage points.
Light Up Middletown is probably the most accurate count we have. Every car that enters the gates is stopped at the entrance to the tunnel of lights. The occupants are counted and asked their county/state of residence and how they heard about the event. From that information, we find that 3.2 people are the average number in each vehicle—an average that remains the same through the years.
The new Got Art project will be using the city’s traffic control cameras at intersections along Central Avenue to count the number of vehicles during the event, compared to the number for the week before the event starts. We will then multiply that number by the 3.2 people per vehicle that we find is a good average to arrive at the attendance. We will also compare the first week of Got Art numbers with following weeks when Light Up Middletown traffic will probably influence the counts.
Once we have the number of people who attend an event, we then multiply by $65 each to arrive at the impact of that event on the local economy.
Why $65? There are many ways to do economic impact studies. One is very involved and very expensive. The U.S. National Hot Air Balloon Championships paid for such a study in 1992, done by Miami University Middletown. When all was said and done, each visitor generated $35 in spending. Take that forward to 2005 and by surveying other events and using the Michigan state on-line economic impact formula system, we arrived at $65 per person.
That $65 includes not just what people spend at an event on tickets, food, games, etc. but it also includes what the event managers spend in staging the event and the likely average spending of guests in local restaurants, stores, gas stations, health care, etc. Beyond those direct spending items is the impact on local taxes, employment, etc. The $65 is on the low side of the multiplier numbers used by other events and covers not only those who come for a day at a festival but those who stay in hotels for soccer tournaments, etc.
After gathering the numbers of guests and multiplying by the $65 we reach an economic impact in 2005 (January-October) of $21.6 million. Our annual total could reach well over $30 million.
While the hotel direct sales impact is included in the above figure, it is a significant amount alone - $4.3 million in direct sales of hotel rooms at 12 hotels.
In summary, the hospitality and entertainment industry in Middletown is alive and well and an important part of the local economy as well as the quality of life. We are working hard to support the efforts in economic development of Middletown and the surrounding area.