We know tournaments, conventions and events that lure thousands of people to the Rockford region generate money for area businesses. But the age-old question batted about since the inception of the Rockford Area Convention & Visitors Bureau is how much?
Until now, the Visitors Bureau has used a perhaps overly simplistic – and perhaps overly conservative - formula to answer that question. It multiplies the estimated number of hotel room nights an event will generate by $180 and poof: That’s where you get the fancy sounding estimates of economic activity.
For instance, this week’s United States Specialty Sports Association World Series featuring women 17 and over playing for a national title at Sportscore One and other area diamonds is expected to attract an estimated 2,600 players, coaches and fans to the region and generate more than $500,000 in revenue for area businesses.
But even though the big Midwest National BMX event at the Searls Park BMX Track drew about 5,000 competitors, spectators and fans - twice as many as the softball tournament - it was expected to generate far less in economic activity at $280,000.
That’s because the vast majority of the folks who come in for the BMX tournament camp at the park and don’t spend their time in area hotel rooms. And the current formula doesn’t count anyone who isn’t expected to generate room nights at area hotels.
This week the Visitors Bureau is taking a software-based calculator from Pennsylvania-based Tourism Economics for a proverbial test drive. It takes into account multiple geographic, census tract, event type and myriad other factors that will not only make economic activity estimates more accurate, but could help the bureau determine which events deliver the best return on investment.