Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Rays Spring Training Economic Impact Study is Embarrassing

UPDATE: I have posted two corrections below and added an additional post on the topic.

Remember my mantra that you can make an economic impact report say anything? It appears the Charlotte Harbor Visitor & Convention Bureau has.

The agency paid Tampa-based Research Data Services, Inc. to study the economic impact of Tampa Bay Rays' spring training on Charlotte County, and it came up with $21 million this year. This was my first thought:
Now, spring training can be a big draw - just ask Lee County, which draws thousands of visitors from Boston and Minnesota each spring. 

However, there's no doubt the effect is diminished when your team, the Rays, plays its regular-season games just an hour away.  The Charlotte Co. study painted a rosy picture of how 61% came from out of the county and 14% came from out of state.
Corrrection: Charlotte Co. responded and said 19.5% of visitors came from out-of-state.

You can't really count the local residents in the revenue-generating category since they'd presumably spend their money on entertainment whether the Rays were there or not.  In fact, there's a good chance more of the money they'd instead spend at beach shops, restaurants, or a movie would stay locally than if they'd spent it at a Rays game.

So even if we pretend none of the visitors who went to Rays games may have visited Charlotte Co. anyway, that's still $21 million in economic impact from roughly 48,000 tourists.  That's $438 in economy generated for Charlotte Co., per tourist, per game attended.

Oh, and 68% of visitors to Charlotte Co. were from other Florida counties, including Hillsborough, Pinellas, Manatee, Sarasota, and Lee counties, where they were unlikely to spend an overnight.  So even if those folks bought tickets, souvenirs, lunch, dinner, and gas in Charlotte Co., you're now talking thousands of dollars in economic impact per fan who chose to stay overnight in the area because of Rays spring training.

And because the study found "the typical overnight visitor party had a median party size of 2 people and spent on average five nights in the area," it suggests couples from another part of the state or country will visit Port Charlotte for five days because of the Rays...choose not to stay in nearby Sarasota or Ft. Myers...and spend thousands of dollars in Charlotte Co. for every game they attend

I don't know if you've been to Punta Gorda or Port Charlotte lately, but hotel rooms aren't terribly expensive.  It would be mighty hard to spend several thousands of dollars on a vacation there.

Of course, economists use multipliers when calculating these things to account for local workers re-spending their earned income, but this study is a joke. 

Want more proof?  Here are Charlotte Co.'s local option sales tax collections for Spring 2014 - just look at the March spring training jump!:
  • Jan 2014 - $1.91 million
  • Feb 2014 - $1.74 million
  • Mar 2014 - $1.87 million
Corrrection: Tax data cited was revenue reported, not revenue received. Because there's a lag in reporting, March data was not actually available yet.

Spring training is an economic driver in Florida, but we'll probably never be able to trust a study done by a local tourism board.

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