Wine + Food Festival’s Economic Impact Is “Essentially Flat”

cwf3The Charleston Wine + Food Festival’s most successful 2014 innovation may have been a mobile app, according to a visitor survey report released today by the College of Charleston.

According to the report, 100 percent of the 975 attendees who completed the e-mailed survey downloaded the free scheduling app. More than one-third of them credited the app with enhancing their festival experience.

Other introductions weren’t as warmly received: For example, a mere five percent of respondents named the Artisan Market, an element of the remade Culinary Village, as an event they’d like to see return in 2015.

Overall, the numbers closely mirrored those collected last year. “The study is essentially flat in comparison to last year, although out-of-town guests spent more this year than ever before,” College of Charleston associate professor Wayne Smith is quoted as saying in a release, which pegs the economic impact at $9.8 million.

Average spending for out-of-town visitors, which includes tickets, accommodations, restaurants, shopping and attractions, was calculated at $934 per person.  Residents spent an average of $723 per person.

The report confirms that the festival continues to draw a very well-to-do crowd: One in three festivalgoers is affiliated with a household earning upward of $200,000 a year. Still, “pricing” was the second-most frequently cited “least enjoyable aspect of the festival.” The top complaint was the number of people, with 22 percent of patrons describing the event as too crowded. Other problems named by at least nine percent of respondents included timing, organization and “not enough food.”

What festivalgoers liked best were the food and drink: 31 percent of festivalgoers called it their favorite aspect of the event, while another 20 percent indicated they considered everything “most enjoyable.”

Although the release says the festival drew 21,500 guests, the report doesn’t reveal how many of them paid for their tickets. The survey was e-mailed to 3,033 festivalgoers, identified as representing “a majority of all tickets that were sold.” Festival spokeswoman Cathryn Zommer clarified the number should have been defined as representing “the majority of orders placed by a certain date.”

“We knew that the weather would play a role in turnout, but it certainly didn’t dampen the spirit of our attendees,” the release quotes executive director Gillian Zettler as saying.

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