[image-1]Charleston Wine + Food Festival has released their 2015 Economic Impact Study and Visitor Survey Results and all we can say is someone better call the hospitality police. According to the festival’s Visitor Survey, of the 438 out-of-town guests who responded, 59% stayed in hotels. Another 21%? They say they stayed in rentals/Airbnb. That’s at least 92 people enjoying potentially illegal slumber. Not to mention — with the average out-of-towner reportedly spending $367 on accommodations — short-term renters taking in $30,000+ in rental/Airbnb income. 

But that money is all part of the $1 million increase in economic impact the festival reports it had this year (up $9.3 million over last year’s $8.3 million). 

Some other interesting details from the report:

  • An additional 2,500 people bought tickets for a total of 23,000 guests.
  • The average out of town guest expenditure for tickets was $225
  • The average local guest expenditure for tickets was $212
  • 31% of festival guests were non-locals living more than 50 miles away; 16% of these respondents had never been to Charleston prior to the festival, and 72% plan to return to Charleston for another visit (26% higher than reported following the 2014 festival)
  • Average total spending per out of town guest was $964, up from $934 in 2014

As for the festival experience, the Grand Tasting Tent was the most popular attraction. Last year, guests reported that they wanted to see “fewer people, more trashcans, rain plans, and more port-o-potties.” There was no honey bucket stat released this year, so we’ll assume the potty-to-person ratio was properly increased. Instead, the biggest complaint was overcrowding. 

Finally, it appears the festival’s changes may have had a positive impact on locals. In a press release, Wayne Smith, Associate Professor at the College of Charleston’s School of Business says, “The study offers insight into some key shifts for the 2015 festival, like a 10% increase in local attendance.” When City Paper spoke to festival director Gillian Zettler back in March regarding local frustration with ticket prices, she said, “one of the big misconceptions with the festival is that you lay out this ticket price and you get in there and then get hit up for other things. I think a lot of people don’t realize that it’s all-inclusive.” In response, the festival added a search tool to its website to allow guests to find tickets under $100, which we think may have played a factor in encouraging this year’s increased local attendance.