How your event can inject more $$ into your community (and how to measure your success!)

At the recent DestinationQ Event ForumGlenn Hardy of IER, gave practical advice for how events can create and measure their local economic impact.

Events create

  • community pride and liveability
  • loyalty and advocacy for a destination
  • economic injections into a community

What does event economic impact measure?

It only measures new money coming into the destination - it does not include spending by locals.  

Measuring the economic impact of your event helps with

  • government funding applications and acquittals, and securing business sponsorship
  • benchmarking the event to compare with other years
  • increasing the profile of the event which supports working with media and on social media
  • community pride and community partnerships
  • partnerships with local businesses

Events should measure

  • Visitor origins
  • Their primary purpose for visiting the region
  • Length of stay
  • Expenditure in the community
  • Attendance: total attendances and total number of attendees
  • Event organiser income and expenditure

How to research

  • This depends on your budget:
  • Survey your visitors, including when you sell tickets (e.g. entering residence postcode is required)
  • Ask retailers in town to provide statistics
  • Engage an outside organisation to report

The top mistakes events make in gathering data

  • using total attendance instead of number of individual attendees
  • guesstimating attendance (poorly)
  • not asking if the event was the reason the attendee visited the region

Creating your visitor survey

  • Visitor origins (Postcode and state of residence)
  • Was your event their primary purpose for visiting the region? (If not, did they extend their stay to attend the event?)
  • Length of stay (Daytripper or overnight stays – how many nights in region and how many nights in the state on that trip)
  • Expenditure (On each of these: food, tickets, transport, retail, accommodation, souvenirs, attractions, incidentals. This helps identify opportunities and possible partnerships)
  • The number of total attendances and total attendees (E.g. one attendee could attend the event on two days = a total of two attendances)
  • (See Glenn's slides for his suggestions on how to frame these questions in your survey.)


Even small crowds are hard to estimate, like this moment with Costa Georgiadis at Felton Food Festival

Even small crowds are hard to estimate, like this moment with Costa Georgiadis at Felton Food Festival

How to estimate attendance

  • If you have a ticketed event or a main entry where you can use a counter to count attendees, your attendance count will be accurate.
  • If you have a free event with no entry points, or multiple venues, you may need to estimate attendance.
    NOTE: Many event committees and emergency services and media overestimate attendance significantly (in our experience often by a factor of 10!)

For more accurate attendance estimates

  • Density counts (number of people in counted in e.g. 20 m2 x total event site m2)
  • Location tracking (number of mobile phones in area + asking in survey if attendees had a mobile phone, then figuring out total attendance based on what percentage of attendees had a phone with them)
  • Product consumption method (how many of x products (e.g. cokes) were sold and asking in survey if attendees had bought x product/s)
  • Counts from aerial photos
  • Give wristbands to every attendee – green for local, blue for intrastate, red for interstate – how many given out = attendance
  • For multiple day free events, conduct a survey to determine how many days on average individuals attended

Other income and expenditure to consider

  • Competitor, exhibitor, meida and participant expenditure
  • Event organiser expenditure (e.g. infrastructure, advertising, merchandise)
  • Event organiser income (e.g. sponsorship, grants, ticket sales)


Event KPIs

  • Visitor origins – number of intrastate, interstate and overseas attendees
  • Number of visitor nights
  • Direct expenditure
  • Overnight visitor expenditure
  • Economic output (inputs:outputs)


How to create economic value

Have more visitors who spend more and stay longer: 3 strategies to work on

Destinations want overnight visitor expenditure, and events are a hook to attract more visitors.

What are your event objectives?

Chasing more and more visitors or chasing yield: i.e. attracting those who spend more and stay longer? 
This depends on the where your event is in its lifecycle.

Delivering an incredible event experience

When an event delivers a great experience, and a strong connection is created between the destination and the event, this creates attendee loyalty and advocacy which drives repeat visitation (i.e. returning with friends in tow!)

DestinationThink! summed this up beautifully in a recent succinct article: with your visitors doing all your destination and event marketing with what they share on social media, your job is to create an amazing experience so your visitors will say great things about you! 
Focus on visitor services and adding to your visitors' experiences!

An event has to provide quality transport, accessibility, visitor services, cleanliness, food, facilities, wifi, signage and amenities, and then provide quality experiential elements: entertainment, innovation, unique food experiences, enhanced technology…

It's these experiential elements that provide the emotional connection for visitors.

Creating emotional experiences leads to loyalty which leads to advocacy.
Create opportunities for visitors to feel connected to family/friends/locals, to feel entertained/excited/inspired/special and for escapism.
Word of mouth and social media are the top ways people hear about events so advocacy and loyalty is key!
Image credit: Roma's Easter in the Country...

Image credit: Roma's Easter in the Country...

This is also true for the destination: provide quality visitor services, accessibility, wifi, info, etc and quality experiential elements: attractions, restaurants, promotion of natural assets so visitors can experience escapism, inspiration, connection, relaxation, excitement, engagement, education…

And create local ambassadors for your event because visitor connection with the local community is critical - visitors want to live like locals and feel connected! 

Deliver an event and destination experience.
Ensure you are working on improving visitor services.


Create economic value

  • Use unique elements from your region in your event
  • Communicate with attendees about what else they can do while they are in the region
  • Understand your visitors and therefore what will value-add to their experience
  • Package with local attractions and retailers to increase expenditure
  • Motivate locals to invite their friends and family to stay for the event


The net event organiser impact economically on the community can be improved by purchasing goods and services from the economy, and
growing income from out of region.

Work together in partnerships to build the event brand and the destination brand.
Tourism is really everyone’s business because events do a great job of dispersing their export income across many kinds of local businesses.

Increasing your event’s local economic impact is a simple equation:
Buy more locally
Increase income from out-of-region


    Kushla GaleComment