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T O U R I S M

R E P O R T

F L O R I D A’ S

THE LEGACY

BREAK S E B A S T I A N

E C O N O M I C

I N L E T

I M PAC T:

THUNDER ON

F Y

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VISITATION

REPORT

COCOA BEACH FA L L

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Florida’s Space Coast COCOA BEACH • MELBOURNE AND THE BEACHES • PORT CANAVERAL • PALM BAY • VIERA • TITUSVILLE


TABLE OF CONTENTS

Letter from the Executive Director

4

Meet the Research Team

7

Tourism on the Space Coast

8

Thunder on Cocoa Beach

37

The Legacy Break

59

Florida’s Space Coast Office of Tourism 430 Brevard Avenue Suite 150, Cocoa, FL 32922 Phone: (877) 57-BEACH (2-3224) (321) 433-4470 Fax: (321) 433-4476


A LETTER FROM THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR “An empowered organization is one in which individuals have the knowledge, skill, desire, and opportunity to personally succeed in a way that leads to collective organizational success.”-Stephen Covey Welcome to the inaugural edition of our tourism intelligence publication. I am personally excited to share this with you. It is quite an amazing time to be a marketer with access to information and data like never before. This offers the tremendous opportunity to align knowledge in support of our creative processes. It also offers a tremendous challenge to select the data sets which truly provide accurate insights. Marketers must embrace an intellectually honest approach to evaluating programs and use data-supported knowledge to drive continuous improvement. We must reject the temptation to “cherry pick” data only to prove we were right, and instead be willing to focus on the continuous pursuit of excellence. Data requires analysis to provide knowledge. Some data-sets are straightforward, others a bit more complicated especially when involving consumer behavior. The Office of Tourism has partnered with economists at Florida Institute of Technology to develop studies and provide the deep analysis and insights, which I trust you’ll find interesting. Better yet, I hope you find it useful and valuable. That is the purpose for sharing in this publication. Our marketing team will continue to be data-driven as we refine and develop programs to grow tourism on Florida’s Space Coast. I want to thank the FIT team members, especially Dr. Mike Slotkin and Dr. Alex Vamosi for their leadership in this initiative. I appreciate the Tourist Development Council for supporting the allocation of resources for us to develop this knowledge base. And lastly, and most importantly, I am proud of our team who are embracing this honest and open approach to evaluating programs and using data to create effective marketing campaigns.

ERIC GARVEY

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

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MEET THE RESEARCH TEAM DR. MIKE SLOTKIN is a professor of economics in the Bisk College of Business at the Florida Institute of Technology. He earned his Ph.D. in economics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and his scholarly activity surrounds the application of economics to the environment, to regional economies and industries, and pedagogical issues in the conduct of business education. In terms of applied work, Dr. Slotkin consults with corporations, NGOs, and litigators. To date he has co-authored over 20 economic impact studies for nature and art festivals, art & cultural organizations, government agencies, and universities. He has presented papers at international conferences held in Europe and the United States, and is a frequently cited source in regional newspapers such as FLORIDA TODAY and THE ORLANDO SENTINEL.

DR. ALEX VAMOSI is an associate professor of economics in the College of Business at the Florida Institute of Technology. He earned his Ph.D. in economics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and an M.A. in economics from the University of Alberta, Canada. Dr. Vamosi’s scholarly and consulting activities involve the application of statistical and quantitative analysis related to environmental economics, regional economies and industries, and pedagogical issues in the business education. He has consulted on over 20 economic impact studies for various Brevard County organizations, and presented papers on these topics both locally and internationally. Dr. Vamosi also has extensive management experience, working as the Associate Dean of the College of Business from 2007 to 2015.

TIFFANY MINTON has served as the marketing director of Florida’s Space Coast Office of Tourism for two years. Minton was born in Florida and has lived on the Space Coast for 30 years. She is a graduate of Florida Institute of Technology with a Bachelor of Science degree in Communication. Minton worked for Boeing and L-3 Communications and her last position was a senior marketing and communications specialist for Health First. She lives in Merritt Island with her husband and enjoys the beach, surfing, boating and practicing yoga.

DEBORAH WEBSTER was born and raised in the Philadelphia area, spending summers in Ocean City, New Jersey. She relocated to the Space Coast in the summer of 2015, after frequent visits to family over the past 20 years. In her role as research and analytics director, she supports the Marketing team with data to best reach visitors to Florida’s Space Coast. Webster is a graduate of Widener University and spent 15 years as an educator. She has two daughters; Anna Grace, 14 and Charlotte, 12 and lives in Cocoa Beach.


Tourism 8 | V I S I T S PA C E C O A S T. C O M

on the

Space


THE SURVEY EXECUTIVE SUMMARY The Space Coast Office of Tourism (SCOT) is the chief steward for marketing and tourism promotion in Brevard County. In 2016, the SCOT set out to collect tourism data for Brevard County to obtain a better picture of Space Coast visitors and their characteristics. A consistent and sustained examination of visitor spending patterns, party origination and profile, trip motivation and characteristics, and other related variables was desired, necessitating the development of processes for data capture and assessment, as well as a reporting device for disseminating the information uncovered. The purpose of this publication, sponsored by the SCOT and produced in partnership with the Florida Institute of Technology is to provide information about Space Coast tourism trends and their economic impact, using this recently collected information. This Executive Summary profiles Space Coast visitors in terms of spending and marketing. It is based on a survey of visitors who recently rented lodging accommodations in this region. Also presented in this publication are a study of the economic impact of a signature tourism (“Thunder on Cocoa Beach”) and a feature about the Space Coast’s surfing heritage.

Coast

The center piece of tourism on the Space Coast, and the funding vehicle for all efforts at developing and promoting the Space Coast brand, are those visitors to Brevard County who rent accommodations at area hotels, motels and other lodging options and pay the tourist tax. These headsin-beds visitors are the most significant drivers of economic impact. Through a 5 percent bed tax on their lodging rate, this is the revenue source for all SCOT efforts. Who they are, what they spend, where they come from, how they get here, what they like and dislike…the answer to these questions are the antecedent to any strategy designed to improve the tourism experience and expand market share.

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SURVEY BACKGROUND Data gathering, at least to the extent that it’s done well, isn’t cheap. Quality information also requires a survey long enough to collect feedback, which in the context of tourists who are enjoying area beaches and amenities, runs the risk of antagonizing the very market segment SCOT is trying to enlarge. How best then to establish a process for data collection which provides the benefits of information acquisition at an affordable rate and with minimal imposition on area guests? In 2016, the FIT team, Professors Mike Slotkin and Alex Vamosi, in conjunction with the SCOTs Executive Director, Eric Garvey; Research Director, Deborah Webster; and Marketing Director, Tiffany Minton, developed a flexible, indirect survey approach that invited visitors to complete an electronic questionnaire post-trip, ensuring the collection of quality data. This strategy offered the flexibility but avoided the pitfalls potentially associated with direct survey-intercept. For these efforts in data gathering to be successful, hotel management and the SCOT needed to be on the same page, and the risk of turning off the industry’s prime customers during their vacations was to be avoided. In coordination with area hotels, the process was implemented in spring 2017. An indirect approach was utilized. Survey reminders were printed on bookmarks handed out to departing hotel guests, table tents displayed in breakfast areas, and on bar coasters directed guests to a dedicated online survey with an inducement for participation. Hotels that agreed to participate were merely asked to have their front desk personnel mention the survey when they handed out bookmarks to their departing guests. The table tents and coasters were placed without any introduction. The game plan was for data capture to occur at a quiet-time, post-trip, for what was expected to be a 6-8-minute survey. Due to both the lack of direct survey intercept, and the length of the questionnaire, response rates for this indirect approach were projected to be low. To bolster data capture, an additional avenue was pursued utilizing the SCOT’s Facebook partnership. Under guidance from the SCOT, a paid Facebook ad with a link to the hotel survey was served to Facebook users who had made a Visa card purchase in a Brevard County hotel during a certain time period. Due to difficulties inherent with extending this approach in an international context (i.e., language concerns), foreign users could not be served. The Facebook option, owing to the lack of in-person interaction and survey length, was also expected to have a low response rate. But the volume of online survey prompts, orders of magnitude larger than what could be accomplished via bookmarks, table tents, and coasters, offered the potential for greater sample sizes. And that is, in effect, what occurred. Hundreds of completed surveys were received through the social network – more than six times the amount collected via the combined printed materials – leading to a much-greater sample size. Truth be told, the process of data gathering is still in its early stages, and while much is known, there are still unknowns to understand. What is the typical lag time between trip completion and survey completion? Will the Facebook approach, which yielded several hundred completed surveys in the initial time period, become less effective as the ensuing months, and exposure, increase? With respect to data gathering, the one constant the SCOT-FIT team offers is change. We will learn, adapt, and pivot in approach to ensure we collect the best information possible from our guests.

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Understanding Space Coast guests is critical to expanding tourism market share.

V I S I T S PA C E C O A S T. C O M |

11


Hundreds of completed surveys were received through Facebook. More than six times the amount collected via traditional methods. SURVEY STRUCTURE At the very onset of this project it was decided that survey quality would rule over quantity so a deeper understanding of the marketing and economic conditions associated with Space Coast tourism would be possible. Even if we had to sacrifice response rates, it was better to have some of the information truly desired, then a larger volume of superficial reveals. Think of a long-form versus short-form census survey. For an economic impact study of a beach activity, a shortform instrument of less than 10 questions would suffice, which could be accomplished via direct-intercept and necessitate 2-3 minutes. For a long-form instrument, designed to elicit much greater detail on hotel/motel guests, a 30-question survey, with multiple parts, would require more than double the amount of time. It’s not conducive for survey-intercept, and certainly will engender a smaller response rate even though the data collected would offer more valuable insights. With the Facebook option, the sheer magnitude of potential respondents “tagged” would ensure workable sample sizes. To put it succinctly, we asked a lot of questions. The anchor query, which would qualify or disqualify someone from taking the rest of the survey, asked whether you had stayed overnight in a Space Coast hotel or accommodation in a preceding time period (i.e., 6 months). Following questions related to the type of accommodation, its location or name, the approximate time frame of your trip, party size, number of children, length of stay, and how many rooms and nights were also procured. The survey continued with a series of questions to better profile the traveler. Were they a U.S. resident (in virtually all cases this was so for reasons discussed above), and if so, what was their zip code? What was their annual household income, and what was the main purpose for their trip (e.g., vacation, business, visiting family, etc.)? If they came for a public event, what was it? If they came for business reasons, what type of enterprise (e.g., private, government, NGO, etc.) was conducted? 1 2 | V I S I T S PA C E C O A S T. C O M

Respondents were asked to rate activities typical of the Space Coast tourism experience (e.g. Ron Jon Surf Shop, Kennedy Space Center, Brevard Zoo, etc.). Additionally, respondents were asked to rate their satisfaction with the area’s tourism infrastructure by asking them to rate their satisfaction with 11 tangible and intangible amenities (e.g., beach cleanliness, beach restrooms, personal safety, traffic, etc.). Further inquiries identified those who took cruises originating from the Space Coast, as well as those who arrived in the area via air travel. Spending profiles were established by an inquiry which required the respondent to estimate total dollar amounts spent by their party during their Space Coast visit. Categories included: lodging, dining & beverages, recreation & entertainment, retail, gasoline, local transportation, and other services. They were also surveyed about Space Coast advertising they’d seen, websites they used for trip preparation and how they spent their money during their visit. Finally, we were interested in whether visitors would endorse their Space Coast experience, so we inquired about the likelihood of them referring a friend for a visit, and additionally, if they were likely to return? Those who tabbed “4” or “5” (the highest likelihood) to the return question were then asked what the expected time period of return would be (e.g., within the next 3 months, within the next 6 months, etc.). As one can probably intuit from this broad list of questions, not every respondent would be required to answer every question. Still, the survey conceivably asks more than 70 individual information items, and thus, is quite comprehensive. Similar to our data gathering effort, we will continue to assess our survey instrument to ensure we’re collecting the most relevant data.


V I S I T S PA C E C O A S T. C O M |

13


SURVEY RESULTS This first iteration of Florida’s Space Coast Tourism Report, comprising the first half of 2017, what did we find? About 70 percent of respondents (n=519) stayed in Space Coast hotels/motels, with the remainder using shortterm rental, RV/campground, or other types of lodging. This corroborates nicely with the percentage of bed tax collections attributable to hotels/motels, which is in the neighborhood of 75 percent. Within the hotels/motels sub-sample, about 58 percent lodged in Cocoa Beach, while another 26 percent stayed in Palm Bay-MelbourneTitusville. Once again, this accords well with existing bed tax data. Among lodgers not utilizing hotels/motels, about 62 percent stayed in the Cocoa Beach/Cape Canaveral area. All the above figures are fairly consistent with existing bedtax collection data and leaves us reasonably confident that the sample collected is a fairly accurate representation of the domestic tourists who procure accommodations on the Space Coast, which will be denoted by the acronym DTAB (i.e., domestic tourism accommodation-based). Please keep in mind – many tourists stay overnight with friends or family, while some visitors are day-trippers. This dataset reflects overnight visitors procuring lodging accommodations on the Space Coast, principally domestic residents. That is the anchor category for this sample.

Party Size and Length of Stay Overall, the average size of DTAB parties was 3.1 individuals. An estimated 1.2 rooms were rented per party, and the average number of nights a party stayed was 3.7. These figures translate to about 4.8 room nights per party and 11.9 people nights per party.

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Trip Purpose What was the primary purpose of DTAB trips? About 65 percent of visiting parties were here on vacation/holiday, with another 10.8 percent visiting family and friends (but again, staying in accommodations). Approximately 8.5 percent could be classified as business travel, while just over 1 percent utilized Space Coast accommodations as a convenient drive stop. Interestingly, another 4 percent or so indicated they were visiting the area for a public event.

Household Income About 25 percent of respondents indicated a standard of living less than $50,000 per year, while about one-third of all parties lived in households where income equaled or exceeded $100,000. For perspective, in 2015 the state of Florida median household income was $49,426, and the median household income for the Orlando-KissimmeeSanford MSA (i.e., metro statistical area) was $51,077. The DTAB sample reveals about 51.5 percent of parties with household incomes equal to or exceeding $75,000.

Travel Mode Nearly 29 percent of the respondents flew into one of the area’s three major airports, reinforcing the notion that the Space Coast is primarily a “drive market,” as far as tourism goes. Just under 23 percent of visitors utilized Orlando International Airport, while about 3 percent of parties disembarked at Orlando-Melbourne International Airport. Another 3 percent flew into the Orlando-Sanford International Airport, exclusively on Allegiant Airlines.


About one-fifth of the parties visiting the area went on cruises, with most staying in local lodging before they set sail. Gleaning a bit further, about 8 percent of respondents embarked on Carnival Cruise Line, while about 6.5 percent enjoyed a Royal Caribbean-based adventure. The remaining 5.2 percent voyaged on Disney (3.3 percent), Norwegian (0.2 percent), and other carriers (1.7 percent).

asked about their relative satisfaction with these relevant factors. Utilizing a 5-point Likert scale ranging from very poor (1) to excellent (5), respondents yielded average scores ranging from 3.60 (public transportation) to 4.63 (beach accessibility). Beach restrooms (3.69), public restrooms (3.72), general traffic (3.80), and traffic at the port (3.91) were all factors with average ratings below 4.0.

To reaffirm a point made earlier, this means about 20 percent of those tourists who procured Space Coast accommodations were also enjoying a cruise; it does not imply that 20 percent of cruise participants rented area lodging. Always keep in mind the anchor question – did you stay overnight in a Space Coast accommodation – that is the basis for DTAB: domestic tourism, accommodation based. We emphasize “domestic” due to the inability to properly capture internationals via the Facebook approach.

Tourism Marketing

Activities & Attractions

Visitor Spending

About 83 percent of the DTAB parties indicated that beach activities were the most relevant to them and applied to their trip. This relevancy was followed by Ron Jon Surf Shop/ Cocoa Beach Surf Company to 59.5 percent of respondents, the Cocoa Beach Pier (47.8 percent), Kennedy Space Center (43.7 percent) and Cocoa Village (43.2 percent). About one in five travelers tabbed the Brevard Zoo as relevant to their visit, while about 18 percent indicated the Eau Gallie Arts District was applicable. All told, nine of the twelve offerings were relevant to 30 percent or more of respondents.

DTAB guests spent approximately $1,503 per party per visit, with about $671 spent on lodging and $330 spent on restaurants. Recreation expenditures accounted for $239, and retail purchases amounted to $162. The remaining balance was expended on gas, transportation, and other services. On a per-person basis, these figures boiled down to about $487 spent per person per trip, and about $126 spent per person per day.

DTAB visitors were also asked about their relative satisfaction with these attractions. Utilizing a 5-point Likert scale ranging from very dissatisfied (1) to very satisfied (5), respondents rated the activities they participated in (see the previous relevancy rates). Ten of the twelve attractions rated between 4.18 and 4.55, with the median response at 4.29.

Tourism Infrastructure

Roughly 78 percent of the survey participants said they very likely would visit the Space Coast again, while 69 percent indicated they would very likely recommend a visit to a friend or family member. About one in four of the overall sample indicated they would return within 3 months and another 20 percent indicated they would return within in 6 months. Clearly, a significant component of Space Coast tourism is typified by drive market, recurring traffic.

Topping the list of infrastructure elements most relevant to visitors were traffic, personal safety, beach accessibility, beach cleanliness, and sidewalks & walking. DTAB visitors were also

The tourism trends partnership for this report will continue to evaluate the survey framework and results, to ensure the most-relevant data is being collected.

Social media video and conventional billboards featuring the Space Coast had the greatest impact on respondents. Websites, television, news stories, and print magazines were denoted by about one in four visitors. In terms of websites used in preparation for their Space Coast visit, VisitSpaceCoast.com topped the list, followed by GoCocoaBeach.com.

Future Visits

V I S I T S PA C E C O A S T. C O M |

15


ACCOMMODATION TYPE (N=519) 12.3%

OTHER RV/CAMPGROUND

4.2% 13.5%

SHORT TERM RENTAL

69.9%

HOTEL/MOTEL

0%

20%

40%

60%

80%

The type of accommodations that overnight visitors tend to procure skews toward hotel and motel rooms (nearly 70%). The remaining 30% of domestic tourists who rent lodging use short-term rentals, RV/campgrounds, or other lodging types (bed & breakfasts, cottages, etc.).

TRIP PROFILE BY OVERALL SAMPLE (N=519) 15

12

11.9

9

6 4.8

3

3.7 2.4 0.7

1.2

KIDS PER PARTY

ROOMS PER PARTY

0 ADULTS PER PARTY

NIGHTS PER PARTY

ROOM NIGHTS PER PARTY

PEOPLE NIGHTS PER PARTY

The average DTAB party hosted 3.1 individuals, of which 0.7 were kids. They rented 1.2 rooms, stayed 3.7 nights, procured 4.8 room nights, and overall accounted for 11.9 people nights per visit. Averages are weighted.

V I S I T S PA C E C O A S T. C O M |

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TRIP PROFILE BY CRUISE AND INCOME COHORTS 15 12.8

12

11.1

9 7.7

6 CRUISE COHORT N=102

4.5

4.1 LESS THAN 75K N=252

75K OR GREATER N=267

3

3.3

0.5

0 ADULTS PER PARTY

3.1

2.6

2.42.4 2.3 0.7 0.8

KIDS PER PARTY

5.0

1.11.3 1.2

ROOMS PER PARTY

NIGHTS PER PARTY

ROOM NIGHTS PER PARTY

PEOPLE NIGHTS PER PARTY

In this graphic, we summarize trip profiles for a few segments of our overall sample. The profiles include those earning less than $75k in household income per year, those earning $75k or more, and those DTAB visitors embarking on cruises. The actual size of these sub-samples is provided in the legend. Please note the multi-night nature of the cruise cohort.

TRIP PROFILE BY EXPECTED RETURN VISITORS 15

14.4

12

10.8

9 7.6

6.0

6 3 MONTH RETURN N=129

4.2 6 MONTH RETURN N=102

12 MONTH RETURN N=148

3.4

3 2.1 2.3

2.9

2.5

0.6 0.5 0.8

0 ADULTS PER PARTY

KIDS PER PARTY

4.0 3.4

1.21.1 1.3

ROOMS PER PARTY

NIGHTS PER PARTY

ROOM NIGHTS PER PARTY

PEOPLE NIGHTS PER PARTY

Trip profiles based on those expecting a return visit within three months, six months, and 12 months show a positive correlation between length of stay per party and length of time anticipated for next return. People who plan to visit sooner tend to have a shorter length of stay than those with a longer time-horizon. 1 8 | V I S I T S PA C E C O A S T. C O M


PRIMARY PURPOSE OF TRIP (N=519) OTHER

2.9%

JOB INTERVIEW

0.8%

DRIVE TRAVEL

1.3% 4.2%

PUBLIC EVENT PRIVATE OCCASSION

6.4% 8.5%

BUSINESS

10.8%

VISITING FAMILY/FRIENDS

65.1%

VACATION/HOLIDAY 0%

10%

20%

30%

40%

50%

60%

70%

80%

We asked our respondents about the primary purpose of their trip. About 76% of DTAB parties were vacationing or visiting family and friends; another 8.5% were on business; public events and private occasions (weddings, reunions, etc.) were responsible for another 10.6% of travel; and the final 5% was divided up amongst drive travel, job interviews, and other motivations.

PRIMARY PURPOSE OF TRIP, CRUISE COHORT (N=102) OTHER

2.0%

JOB INTERVIEW

1.0%

CONVENIENT STOP FOR DRIVE TRAVEL

1.0%

PUBLIC EVENT, SHOW OR FESTIVAL

0.0%

PRIVATE OCCASSION (WEDDING, REUNION, ETC.)

2.9%

BUSINESS

4.9%

VISITING FAMILY/FRIENDS

7.8% 80.4%

VACATION/HOLIDAY 0%

25%

50%

75%

100%

We thought it might be interesting to explore the rip motivations for those who embarked on a cruise. Our expectation was that vacationing and family and friend visitation would constitute a larger percentage, and in fact, it did: rising from 76% to about 88%. But note the significant overlap between cruise and business travelers. V I S I T S PA C E C O A S T. C O M |

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HOUSEHOLD INCOME (N=519) 10.8%

$150,000 OR MORE 6.6%

$125,000 - $149,000 $100,000 - $124,999

16.4% 17.7%

$75,000 - $99,999

23.5%

$50,000 - $74,999 17.0%

$25,000 - $49,999 8.1%

LESS THAN $25,000 0%

5%

10%

15%

20%

25%

30%

About one-third of visiting parties lived in households with incomes equal to or exceeding $100k. Since about 52% of DTAB households have incomes equal or exceeding $75k, the median income of this demographic is about 50% higher than the corresponding figure for the State of Florida and the Space Coast’s nearest large metro area.

FLIGHT SEGMENTATION (N=519) 100%

80% 71.3%

60%

40%

20%

22.9%

0% NO

YES - OIA

1.9%

0.8%

3.1%

YES - OMIA (DELTA)

YES - OMIA (AA)

YES - OSIA (ALLEGIANT)

While Space Coast tourism is principally a drive-market, about 23% of DTAB visitors utilize Orlando International (OIA), while another 2.7% arrive via Delta or American at the Orlando-Melbourne International airport (OMIA). Allegiant Air, operating through the Orlando-Sanford International Airport (OSIA), facilitates about 3% of DTAB guests. 2 0 | V I S I T S PA C E C O A S T. C O M


CRUISE SEGMENTATION (N=519) 100%

80%

80.3%

60%

40%

20% 7.9%

3.3%

CARNIVAL

DISNEY

6.6%

0.2%

0%

NORWEGIAN

1.7%

ROYAL CARIBBEAN

OTHER

DID NOT EMBARK ON A CRUISE

About 20% of DTAB visitors embark on a cruise from Port Canaveral, with the vast majority of lodging stays (6 out of 7) occurring prior to sailing. For overnight guests, most of the cruising activity occurs on Carnival and Royal Caribbean, although it would be interesting to see if ship activity differs by various segments of the market. Next time …

ACTIVITIES RELEVANCY (N=519) COCOA BEACH PIER

47.8%

THE COVE

31.2%

RON JONS/CBSC

59.5%

PUBLIC EVENT

30.4%

ORLANDO THEME PARKS

32.2% 43.7%

KSC DOWNTOWN MELBOURNE

31.6%

COCOA VILLAGE

43.2%

EAU GALLIE ARTS DISTRICT

17.9%

BREVARD ZOO

21.0% 24.3%

BICYCLING

82.9%

BEACH ACTIVITIES 0%

10%

20%

30%

40%

50%

60%

70%

80%

90%

100%

We asked our respondents to rate their experiences with Space Coast destinations and attractions. To provide context to these ratings, the above chart shows the percentage of respondents who participated in each of the activities listed. Not surprisingly beach activities had, by far, the highest participation rate. V I S I T S PA C E C O A S T. C O M |

21


ACTIVITIES SATISFACTION RATING 5-POINT LIKERT SCALE (N=519) COCOA BEACH PIER

4.23

THE COVE

4.35

RON JONS/CBSC

4.31

PUBLIC EVENT

4.27

ORLANDO THEME PARKS

4.26

KSC

4.55

DOWNTOWN MELBOURNE

4.18

COCOA VILLAGE

4.30

EAU GALLIE ARTS DISTRICT

3.80

BREVARD ZOO

4.35 3.98

BICYCLING

4.42

BEACH ACTIVITIES 1

2

3

4

5

On a scale of (1) very dissatisfied to (5) very satisfied, the average satisfaction rating for almost all activities exceeds 4.2, with the highest rating (4.55) awarded to the Kennedy Space Center (KSC).

WHAT TYPE OF MARKETING HAVE YOU SEEN? (N=519) NONE OF THE ABOVE

20.2%

YOUTUBE

2.7%

WEBSITE

27.4%

TV

23.3%

SOCIAL MEDIA OTHER

14.5%

SOCIAL MEDIA VIDEO

47.6%

RADIO

11.4%

NEWS STORIES

24.5%

MAGAZINE PRINT

24.1%

VACATION PLANNER

18.7% 37.6%

BILLBOARD 11.8%

AIRPORT DISPLAY 0%

5%

10%

15%

20%

25%

30%

35%

40%

45%

50%

Videos on social media was the strongest form of marketing. Billboards were also observed by over a third of respondents, with news stories, magazine print, and TV witnessed by about one in four. 2 2 | V I S I T S PA C E C O A S T. C O M


WHICH OF THE FOLLOWING WEBSITES DID YOU USE? (N=519) OTHER

8.7%

VISITSPACECOAST.COM

12.7% 7.7%

SPACECOASTLAUNCHES.COM GOVIERAFL.COM

0.8%

GOTITUSVILLE.COM

2.5%

GOPORTCANAVERAL.COM

5.4% 0.6%

GOPALMBAY.COM GOMELBOURNEFL.COM

2.5%

GOCOCOABEACH.COM

8.3% 0%

2%

4%

6%

8%

10%

12%

14%

In terms of websites utilized, about one in eight DTAB visitors surfed visitspacecoast.com, and about one in twelve guests navigated gococoabeach.com. Please keep in mind that with most visitors lodging in the Cocoa Beach area, it is likely that websites focused on other geographic areas will have smaller utilization rates.

SPENDING PER PARTY (N=519) DOMESTIC TOURISM, ACCOMMODATION-BASED $1,600

$1,503

$1,400 $1,200 $1,000 $800

$670.70

$600 $400

$330.26

$236.67 $162.13

$200

$78.38

$0 LODGING

RESTAURANTS RECREATION

RETAIL

GAS

$14.75

$8.21

TRANSPORTATION OTHER

TOTAL

Overall, the average trip expenditure for DTAB party amounts to just over $1,500. About two-thirds of the total spend is exhausted on lodging & restaurants, while just over a quarter of the total bill is utilized for recreation and retail purchases. V I S I T S PA C E C O A S T. C O M |

23


SPENDING PER PARTY, PER PERSON DOMESTIC TOURISM, ACCOMMODATION-BASED (N=519) $1,600

$1,503

$1,400 $1,200 $1,000 $800

$671

$600 $400 SPENDING PER PARTY

$217

$200 SPENDING PER PERSON

$330 $107

$239 $77

$162 $53

$78 $25

$0 LODGING

RESTAURANTS RECREATION

RETAIL

GAS

$15 $5

$8 $3

TRANSPORTATION OTHER

TOTAL

Accounting for party size, the average trip expenditure for DTAB parties can be adjusted to provide a per person trip expenditure (i.e., divide $1,503 by the average part size from the trip profile slide). Overall, this amounts to about $487 per person per trip. Accounting for trip length (i.e., divide $1,503 by the average people nights per party from the trip profile slide), this adds up to $126 per person per day per trip.

SPENDING PER PARTY, PER PERSON CRUISE COHORT (N=519) $1,400 $1,191

$1,200 $1,000 $800 $600

$538 $402

$400 SPENDING PER PARTY

$182

$200

$258 $87

SPENDING PER PERSON

$182 $62

$130

$44

$52 $17

$0 LODGING

RESTAURANTS RECREATION

RETAIL

GAS

$24

$8

$7 $2

TRANSPORTATION OTHER

TOTAL

In comparison, the average trip expenditure for Cruise Cohort parties is $1,191, which amounts to about $403 per person per trip. Accounting for trip length, this amounts to $154 per person per day per trip.

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SPENDING PER PARTY, PER PERSON 3-MONTH RETURN COHORT (N=129) $1,200 $995

$1,000

$800

$600 $415

$400

$372 $244

SPENDING PER PARTY

SPENDING PER PERSON

$200

$155

$91

$143 $54

$118

$44

$0 LODGING

RESTAURANTS RECREATION

RETAIL

$63

$23

GAS

$5 $2

$7 $3

TRANSPORTATION OTHER

TOTAL

Turning towards sub-samples differing by indicated time period of return, the average trip expenditure for 3-month return cohort parties is $995, which amounts to about $372 per person per trip. Accounting for trip length, this amounts to $130 per person per day per trip.

SPENDING PER PARTY, PER PERSON 6-MONTH RETURN COHORT (N=102) $1,400 $1,292

$1,200 $1,000 $800 $600

$520

$400 SPENDING PER PARTY

$200 SPENDING PER PERSON

$461 $296

$244

$185 $106

$87

$157

$56

$66 $24

$0 LODGING

RESTAURANTS RECREATION

RETAIL

GAS

$0 $0

$9 $3

TRANSPORTATION OTHER

TOTAL

The average trip expenditure for 6-month return cohort parties is $1,292, which amounts to about $461 per person per trip. Accounting for trip length, this amounts to $119 per person per day per trip.

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25


SPENDING PER PARTY, PER PERSON 12-MONTH RETURN COHORT (N=148) $1,800 $1,608

$1,600 $1,400 $1,200 $1,000 $800 $600 SPENDING PER PARTY

$400

$755

$489 $335

$230

$200 SPENDING PER PERSON

$243

$102

$74

$0 LODGING

RESTAURANTS RECREATION

$169

$51

$84

RETAIL

$25

GAS

$16 $5

$5 $2

TRANSPORTATION OTHER

TOTAL

The average trip expenditure for 12-month return cohort parties is $1,608, which amounts to about $489 per person per trip. Accounting for trip length, this amounts to $111 per person per day per trip.

TOTAL SPENDING PER PARTY, PER PERSON DOMESTIC TOURISM, ACCOMMODATION BASED $1,800

$1,608 $1,503

$1,500 $1,292 $1,191

$1,200

$995

$900

$600 $487 SPENDING PER PARTY

$372

$461

$489

$300 $403

SPENDING PER PERSON

$0 OVERALL

CRUISE COHORT

3 MONTH RETURN

6 MONTH RETURN

12 MONTH RETURN

The average trip expenditure for DTAB overall as well as the various sub-samples discussed previously are depicted above. Note that the overall party expenditure per trip as well as the expenditure per person per trip increases with the length of time expressed for expected return.

2 6 | V I S I T S PA C E C O A S T. C O M


REFERRAL AND RETURN EXPRESSORS, 5 PT RATING (N=519) DOMESTIC TOURISM, ACCOMMODATION BASED 90% 80%

78.2% 69.2%

70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 22.7%

20%

WOULD YOU REFER?

13.3%

10% WOULD YOU RETURN?

0%

1.5% 1.9% 1

0.8% 2.1% 2

5.8% 4.4%

3

4

5

Using a scale from 1 (very unlikely) to 5 (very likely), respondents were asked both about their likelihood of referring a friend for a Space Coast visit as well as whether they would return for a visit to the Space Coast. More than 90% responded with 4’s and 5’s to both questions.

TIMEFRAME OF RETURN (N=519) DOMESTIC TOURISM, ACCOMMODATION BASED 30% 25%

28.5% 24.9%

19.7%

20% 15%

11.4%

10% 6.9%

5% 0% WITHIN THE NEXT 3 MONTHS

WITHIN THE NEXT 6 MONTHS

WITHIN THE NEXT 12 MONTHS

WITHIN THE NEXT 24 MONTHS

MORE THAN 24 MONTHS

For those respondents who indicated a 4 or 5 on the likelihood of return question, we followed up by inquiring about the expected time period of return. As can be observed above, about one in four DTAB parties expect to return within 3 months, and about 45% of parties expect to return within the next 6 months. Since we are reporting this metric with respect to the overall sample, the percentages above do not add up to 100%.

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AMENITY RELEVANCY 5-POINT LIKERT SCALE (N=519) TRAFFIC: PORT

3.91

TRAFFIC: GENERAL

3.80

SIDEWALKS & WALKING

4.29

PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION

3.60

PUBLIC RESTROOMS

3.72

PUBLIC PARKS

4.32

PERSONAL SAFETY

4.47

BEACH RESTROOMS

3.69

BEACH CLEANLINESS

4.43

BEACH ACCESSIBILITY

4.63 4.19

AIRPORT CONVENIENCE 1

2

3

4

5

Using a scale of (1) very poor to (5) excellent, several amenities had satisfaction ratings below four. Public and beach restroom infrastructure may be a category to keep an eye on.

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V I S I T S PA C E C O A S T. C O M |

29


Percent of Total Parties that Plan on Returning to Brevard County within Three Months after Visiting

Percent of Total Parties that Plan on Returning to Brevard County within Six Months after Visiting

3 0 | V I S I T S PA C E C O A S T. C O M


Percent of Total Parties that Plan on Returning to Brevard County within Twelve Months after Visiting

Percent of Total Parties that Plan on Returning to Brevard County to go on a Cruise

V I S I T S PA C E C O A S T. C O M |

31


Location and Number of Parties that Visited Brevard County

Percent of Total Parties that Plan on Returning to Brevard County within Three Months after Visiting

3 2 | V I S I T S PA C E C O A S T. C O M


Percent of Total Parties that Plan on Returning to Brevard County within Six Months after Visiting

Percent of Total Parties that Plan on Returning to Brevard County within Twelve Months after Visiting

V I S I T S PA C E C O A S T. C O M |

33


Percent of Total Parties that Plan on Returning to Brevard County to go on a Cruise

Location and Number of Parties that Visited Brevard County

3 4 | V I S I T S PA C E C O A S T. C O M


CO COA B E ACH | M E L BOURNE & THE BE AC HE S CAN AVE RAL NATIONAL S E AS HORE

VisitSpaceCoast.com

/ Florida's Space Coast

V I S I T S PA C E C O A S T. C O M |

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Thunder Cocoa


THE ECONOMIC IMPACT OF THE 8TH ANNUAL THUNDER ON COCOA BEACH Under blue skies and 85 degree sunshine, the inaugural competition in the 2017 Super Boat racing series was held off Cocoa Beach, Florida in the early afternoon of Sunday, May 21. Thunder on Cocoa Beach consisted of twentyeight teams competing in seven different classes, provided a thrilling racing experience to the thousands of beachgoers who watched transfixed from observation points along the shoreline, near shore, and across boat decks anchored in the ocean east of the course. While racing occurred on Sunday, the overall event was a four-day celebration of speed boats, including pre-race parties, racing team meet-n-greets, inspection and testing, a parade of boats, post-race awards and banquet, and other festivities. The 2017 edition of Thunder on Cocoa Beach, the 8th annual installment of a Super Boat International sanctioned competition, has been designated by the Space Coast Office of Tourism (SCOT) as a signature event. Owing to its draw and reach, Thunder on Cocoa Beach is eligible for specific marketing and promotional funds in SCOTs effort to sponsor events which sustain and augment the Space Coast brand. A precursor to this race was introduced in Cocoa Beach in the early 1990’s, but proved to be unsuccessful. Under Kerry Bartlett’s leadership, the event was resurrected in 2010, with local sponsors and SCOT dollars instrumental in its success.

Beach

The actual racing transpired over a 2.5 mile length of ocean from the Cocoa Beach Pier (the north turn) to Lori Wilson Park (the south turn). Shepard Park lay directly west of the start/finish line, with each racing class completing varying lap totals over the 5.4 mile circuit. The Hilton Cocoa Beach Oceanfront served as the official host hotel and provided a principal venue for spectating as well as pre and post-race celebrations. The stretch of sand and adjoining balconies from Lori Wilson Park to the Westgate Cocoa Beach Pier offered a rich viewing and listening experience for both tourists and locals one week prior to Memorial Day weekend while the event created an economic boost for Brevard County. On the pages that follow we‘ll look back at the event and provide an estimate of its economic impact.

V I S I T S PA C E C O A S T. C O M |

37


THUNDER BOAT RACING In 2017, Super Boat International (SBI; www. superboat.com), an offshore racing series with almost thirty year history sanctioned a five race season with events on Florida’s Space Coast; the Florida Keys; Mentor, Ohio; Michigan City, Indiana; and Clearwater, Florida. While SBI typically showcases larger boats, racing occurs in seven distinct divisions differentiated by engine size and boat specs, and overall, almost fifty teams competed during the 2017 season. Eligibility for promotion and participation in an SBI sanctioned event is predicated upon membership, in good standing, with SBI. A governing rulebook periodically updated by SBI regulates all aspects of racing conditions, boat requirements, scoring, and other factors critical to the safe and fair conduct of each race. Thunder on Cocoa Beach, the kickoff to the 2017 season, saw 28 teams compete, with clustered racing occurring during two shifts: 12-1pm and 2-3pm. During the later interval, the Superboat and Superboat Unlimited premier classes, both 75.6 mile distances (i.e., 14 laps), started within a half-minute of one another shortly after 2pm.

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The winning average speeds in these two divisions were 95.7 and 104.44 mph, respectively, with 14 laps completed in the neighborhood of 45 minutes.

DATA COLLECTION In an effort to better understand ROI on its signature events, the SCOT commissioned an economic impact assessment of Thunder on Cocoa Beach via a collaborative partnership enacted in 2017 with business faculty from the Florida Institute of Technology (FIT). Working in tandem with the SCOT’s Director of Research, the FIT team established a short-form survey instrument conducive for beach-intercept. Questions centering on party size and point of origin, primary purpose of trip, lodging accommodations, previous experience with Thunder on the Beach, and marketing queries were a precursor to a set of items dealing with party expenditures along an array of spending categories. A sampling strategy was devised to capitalize on the three primary nodes of entrance for this open-access event: Lori Wilson Park, Shepard Park, and the Westgate Cocoa Beach Pier. While the 2.5 mile race span offered


many opportunities for beach viewing, population clusters naturally occur where public access/parking is greatest, and where a large volume of hotel rooms line the beach. Accordingly, the FIT professors recruited and trained three crews of survey takers for deployment at the primary hubs detailed above, with each crew comprised of two-person teams utilizing overlapping sweeps north and south of the lifeguard tower at Lori Wilson Park, Shepard Park and the Pier. Surveying was conducted utilizing tablets and paper ballots, with typical completion time for a survey taking about 3-4 minutes. Each crew was directed by an FIT professor who served as both an onsite coordinator as well as participant in survey intercept. Approximately 555 usable surveys were recorded, collectively, by the three crews over two shifts of surveying (1030am-12pm and 1-2pm) that straddled the racing segments. Under no circumstances were surveys administered during periods of competition. A detailed review of the survey results is contained in the section that follows.

DATA RESULTS The 555 survey responses represented parties which can be classified into one of nine distinct categories based on primary purpose of trip, city of origin and whether the party stays overnight on the Space Coast (typically via procurement of some form of lodging). Parties can be overnight versus daytrip tourists, and

can be visiting specifically for the race or for some other primary purpose. Expenditures by those tourists whose trip coincides with the event but who booked their visit for other reasons are not considered an economic impact from Thunder on Cocoa Beach. Local beachgoers can also be classified in a similar manner, and for all primary attendees, we additionally segment by whether they are a return spectator or first time attendee of Thunder on the Beach. Separating primary attendees by whether or not they are returners facilitates marketing questions on how they heard about the event as well as potentially offering some explanation for variations in spending patterns. Approximately 45% of surveyed beach parties were non-locals, with a subset of 23% who were visiting the Space Coast primarily due to Thunder on Cocoa Beach (see Figure 1). Locals who were on the beach primarily due to the race comprised about 47% of the sample, with the largest cohort, local return spectators, constituting approximately 34.2% of parties. Overall, about 11% of surveyed parties were primary purpose, overnight guests that typically provide the largest boost in terms of economic impact, while another 13% were primary purpose daytrippers. Collectively, about 7 in 10 parties surveyed were on the beach primarily to view offshore racing. About 3 in 10 could be classified as non-primary beachgoers who while enjoying the event were not drawn to the Space Coast (or beach) strictly due to its run.

SOURCE: FIT & SCOT

FIGURE 1: THUNDER ON COCOA BEACH PARTY TYPES 9.9%

OVERNIGHT NON-PRIMARY OVERNIGHT RETURNERS

5.2%

OVERNIGHT FIRST TIMERS

5.4%

DAYTRIP NON-PRIMARY

11.4%

DAYTRIP RETURNERS

6.5%

DAYTRIP FIRST TIMERS

6.3%

LOCAL NON-PRIMARY

8.1%

LOCAL RETURNERS

34.2%

LOCAL FIRST TIMERS

13.0%

0%

10%

20%

30%

40%

V I S I T S PA C E C O A S T. C O M |

39


Because party size differs by party type (see Figure 2), variations exist between the percent of parties by party type and the percent of people by party type. Among primary attendees, party size for returners exceeded that for first timers, suggesting a stewardship effect as those that have already been to Thunder on Cocoa Beach return with friends. While parties could conceivably contain a mixture of types, classification is denoted by the survey respondent. In terms of calculating the percentage of overall attendance by party type, the number of individuals represented by each respondent is considered, yielding slightly different proportions than revealed in Figure 1. When overall attendance is segmented by party type (see Figure 3), local representation increases by a few percentage points versus party proportion due to greater numbers of people per party. Overall, about 9.5% of people represented by surveys were primary purpose, overnight guests that typically provide the largest boost in terms of economic impact, while another 13% were primary purpose daytrippers. The process of calculating economic impact is facilitated by the estimation of a spending profile per party (and person) which can then be extrapolated to an actual or estimated aggregate attendance, apportioned by type. Crowd size estimates are often the most

uncertain aspect of a study, and possibly the most ripe for error, when considering non-ticket entry events with open access over a wide area. For now, we simply note that the percentages yielded in Figure 3 are utilized to segment the estimated crowd by type, which is then multiplied by an estimated per person expenditure, by type, from multiple categories of spending. These expenditures include: food/drink (restaurants), lodging, recreation, retail, gas, transportation, and other purchases. Figures 4 & 5 summarize overall spending by local and daytripper types, on a per party and per person basis. Examining Figures 4 & 5, please observe the differential between daytripper returner and first timer spending as well as local returner and first timer spending. Recalling that returner party sizes were generally larger than first timers, it is interesting to note that once party size is controlled by calculating per person spending, those differentials disappear. On average, daytripper primaries (returners & first timers) and local primaries (returners & first timers) all spend in the neighborhood of $35 per person. Interestingly, both categories expend from $11$14 more than their non-primary counterparts, which has ramifications for economic impacts.


SOURCE: FIT & SCOT

FIGURE 2: AVERAGE PARTY SIZE BY TYPE 3.5

OVERNIGHT NON-PRIMARY

4.0

OVERNIGHT RETURNERS

3.3

OVERNIGHT 1ST TIMERS

4.2

DAYTRIP NON-PRIMARY

4.6

DAYTRIP RETURNERS

3.8

DAYTRIP 1ST TIMERS

3.1

LOCAL NON-PRIMARY

5.1

LOCAL RETURNERS

3.4

LOCAL 1ST TIMERS

0

1

2

3

4

5

6

V I S I T S PA C E C O A S T. C O M |

41


8.3%

OVERNIGHT NON-PRIMARY OVERNIGHT RETURNERS OVERNIGHT FIRST TIMERS

5.1% 4.3%

DAYTRIP NON-PRIMARY

11.4%

DAYTRIP RETURNERS DAYTRIP FIRST TIMERS

7.2% 5.7%

LOCAL NON-PRIMARY

6.0%

LOCAL RETURNERS

41.6%

LOCAL FIRST TIMERS

10.5%

0%

4 2 | V I S I T S PA C E C O A S T. C O M

10%

20%

30%

40%

50%

SOURCE: FIT & SCOT

FIGURE 3: THUNDER ON COCOA BEACH ATTENDANCE PERCENTAGE BY TYPE


$84.19

DAYTRIP NON-PRIMARY

$158.31

DAYTRIP RETURNERS DAYTRIP FIRST TIMERS

SOURCE: FIT & SCOT

FIGURE 4: AVERAGE EXPENDITURE PER PARTY (LOCALS & DAYTRIPPERS)

$132.57

LOCAL NON-PRIMARY

$79.56

LOCAL RETURNERS

$181.66

LOCAL FIRST TIMERS

$123.97

$40

$80

$120

$160

$200

FIGURE 5: AVERAGE EXPENDITURE PER ATTENDEE (LOCALS & DAYTRIPPERS) $20.17

DAYTRIP NON-PRIMARY DAYTRIP RETURNERS

$34.33

DAYTRIP FIRST TIMERS

$34.89

LOCAL NON-PRIMARY

SOURCE: FIT & SCOT

$0

$25.94

LOCAL RETURNERS

$35.88

LOCAL FIRST TIMERS

$35.58

$0

$10

$20

$30

$40

V I S I T S PA C E C O A S T. C O M |

43


Controlling for overnight party size and establishing per person expenditures is accomplished in Figure 8, which generally tracks with Figures 6 - 7. On average, nonprimary overnighters spend more than overnight first time attendees of Thunder on Cocoa Beach, who spend more than overnight returners (i.e., $451>$376>$275). Length of stay is the principal cause, and marginal dollars spent per additional visitation day are declining.

FIGURE 6: AVERAGE EXPENDITURE PER PARTY (OVERNIGHTERS) $2,000

$1,600

$1,574.42

$1,200

$1,241.03 $1,111.00

$800

$400

$0 OVERNIGHT 1ST TIMERS

4 4 | V I S I T S PA C E C O A S T. C O M

OVERNIGHT RETURNERS

OVERNIGHT NON-PRIMARY

SOURCE: FIT & SCOT

With respect to overnighters, per party expenditure is, as expected, orders of magnitude larger than local or daytrip spending (see Figure 6) due to the inherent nature of overnight stay. Non-primary overnighters spend more than Thunder on Cocoa Beach overnight tourists due to longer stays (see Figure 7). Despite the fact that on average overnight first timers have smaller party sizes than overnight returners, due to their much larger average length of stay (about 55% higher), overnight first timer parties spend about 12% more than overnight return parties.


7

NUMBER OF NIGHTS

6

6.0

SOURCE: FIT & SCOT

FIGURE 7: AVERAGE LENGTH OF STAY OF OVERNIGHTER VISITORS

5

4

3

3.4

2

2.2

1 OVERNIGHT RETURNERS

OVERNIGHT NON-PRIMARY

FIGURE 8: AVERAGE EXPENDITURE PER EVENT ATTENDEE (OVERNIGHT VISITORS) $500 $451.01

$400

SOURCE: FIT & SCOT

OVERNIGHT 1ST TIMERS

$376.07

$300 $275.38

$200

$100

$0 OVERNIGHT 1ST TIMERS

OVERNIGHT RETURNERS

OVERNIGHT NON-PRIMARY

V I S I T S PA C E C O A S T. C O M |

45


Table 1 summates both expenditures per party type and per person in a comprehensive manner. The overall sample average expenditure per person amounts to $94.52, of which about 75% is related to lodging and restaurant meals. For proper benchmarking, non-primaries should be omitted from the calculation, as their spending does not connote an economic impact attributable to Thunder on Cocoa Beach. Factoring out non-primaries, the average per person expenditure for all primary attendees of Thunder on Cocoa Beach amounted to $71.60. We now turn our attention to the determination of the event’s total economic impact.

TABLE 1: THUNDER ON COCOA BEACH PER PARTY AND PER PERSON EXPENDITURES BY CATEGORY AVG EXPENDITURE PER PARTY OVERALL

# OF PARTIES

RESTAURANTS

LODGING

RECREATION

RETAIL

GAS

TRANSPORT

OTHER

TOTAL

$141.11

$16.23

$44.59

$15.41

$7.37

$13.91

$394.07

$70.97

$12.03

$2.64

$21.01

$6.72

$0.03

$10.57

$123.97

$94.27

$38.32

$2.50

$25.93

$5.26

$1.29

$14.09

$181.66

$5.11

$14.07

$4.33

$3.33

$3.93

$79.56

555

$155.46

LOCAL 1ST TIMERS

72

LOCAL RETURNERS

190

LOCAL NON-PRIMARY

45

$47.67

$1.11

DAYTRIP 1ST TIMERS

35

$74.17

$0.00

$2.63

$17.29

$16.77

$0.00

$21.71

$132.57

DAYTRIP RETURNERS

36

$77.08

$0.00

$2.64

$39.17

$24.69

$0.00

$14.72

$158.31

DAYTRIP NON PRIMARY

63

$51.83

$0.00

$2.62

$8.60

$10.73

$0.32

$10.10

$84.19

OVERNIGHT 1ST TIMERS

30

$415.00

$556.73

$42.80

$130.33

$37.00

$23.00

$36.17

$1,241.03

OVERNIGHT RETURNERS

29

$365.86

$422.07

$61.72

$167.48

$49.83

$20.59

$23.45

$1,111.00

OVERNIGHT NON-PRIMARY

55

$534.82

$748.73

$85.20

$115.45

$39.36

$43.33

$7.53

$1,574.42

# OF PARTIES

RESTAURANTS

LODGING

RETAIL

GAS

TRANSPORT

OTHER

TOTAL

OVERALL

2314

$37.29

$33.85

$3.89

$10.69

$3.70

$1.77

$3.34

$94.52

LOCAL 1ST TIMERS

244

$20.94

$3.55

$0.78

$6.20

$1.98

$0.01

$3.12

$36.58

LOCAL RETURNERS

962

$18.62

$7.57

$0.49

$5.12

$1.04

$0.26

$2.78

$35.88

LOCAL NON-PRIMARY

138

$15.54

$0.36

$1.67

$4.59

$1.41

$1.09

$1.28

$25.94

DAYTRIP 1ST TIMERS

133

$19.52

$0.00

$0.69

$4.55

$4.41

$0.00

$5.71

$34.89

DAYTRIP RETURNERS

166

$16.72

$0.00

$0.57

$8.49

$5.36

$0.00

$3.19

$34.33

DAYTRIP NON PRIMARY

263

$12.41

$0.00

$0.63

$2.06

$2.57

$0.08

$2.42

$20.17

OVERNIGHT 1ST TIMERS

99

$125.76

$168.71

$12.97

$39.49

$11.21

$6.97

$10.96

$376.07

OVERNIGHT RETURNERS

117

$90.68

$104.62

$15.30

$41.51

$12.35

$5.10

$5.81

$275.38

OVERNIGHT NON-PRIMARY

192

$153.20

$214.48

$24.41

$33.07

$11.28

$12.41

$2.61

$451.01

AVG EXPENDITURE PER PARTY

4 6 | V I S I T S PA C E C O A S T. C O M

RECREATION


ECONOMIC IMPACT This study can be defined as an estimate of the flows of spending associated with Thunder on Cocoa Beach and their identified changes in sales, income, and employment within Brevard County. Impacts are estimated via input-output modeling, where an input-output model describes the flows of economic activity between production sectors, capturing what industries must purchase from one another in order to produce goods and services. These flows have both forward and backward linkages, yielding a multiplicative process whereby spending generates indirect and induced effects, the magnitude of which depends upon spending leakages. In short, as the multiplier process unfolds, spending leaks out of the local economy in the form of taxes, savings, profits to out-of-area residents, and payments for goods and services from outside the study region (i.e., imports). In the case of a production function for the promotion of a boat racing event, inputs utilized in producing the services which constitute final demand, such as labor, equipment, utilities, and others, are sometimes sourced from outside the study area; this would constitute a leakage. An input-output model for the economy of Brevard County was constructed using IMPLAN (www.implan.com), an integrated software and data package used by more than 1,300 academic institutions, federal and state government agencies, and private consulting firms. Expenditures associated with Thunder on Cocoa Beach were then applied to IMPLAN’s social accounting model which factors in commuting, tax, and saving behavior by households in establishing multiplier effects. IMPLAN also affords the analyst the ability to index prices to the appropriate study year. Economic impacts are determined by adjusting the aggregate expenditure or final demand value to ascertain the direct effect.

The direct sales effect represents changes in production that occur due to changes in Thunder on Cocoa Beach related expenditures. Retail purchases, a portion of final demand, must be factored to segment the purchaser price into appropriate retail, wholesale, and transportation margins along with the producer price. In most instances, retail items are manufactured elsewhere; consequently, only those margins derived locally are factored into the direct effect. Services represent producer prices and thus need not be margined. The establishment of the “true� direct effect becomes the starting point for a multiplicative process in which direct sales effects lead to secondary effects known as indirect and induced effects. The former are changes in production that occur as backward-linked industries respond to changes in final demand in directly affected industries. For example, an increase in restaurant meals triggers production responses from food and beverage vendors which supply eating and drinking establishments. In contrast, induced effects represent changes in economic activity resulting from income changes accruing directly or indirectly through changes in aggregate spending. In other words, workers supported by Thunder on Cocoa Beach related activities expend their earnings on an array of consumer goods and services, much of which occurs locally. The total effect sums both the direct and secondary effects, and represents the aggregate economic impact of Thunder on Cocoa Beach activities in Brevard County, stated in terms of sales, income, and employment. Income or valueadded describes the payments made by industry to wages, interest, profits, and indirect business taxes. It is analogous to the gross domestic product estimates ubiquitously cited in business/macroeconomic reports. V I S I T S PA C E C O A S T. C O M |

47


Table 1, in conjunction with Figure 3, provides the per person spending and categorical population weights need to inform an IMPLAN model of the Space Coast economy. In addition to attendee spending, the 28 racing teams themselves incur lodging, meals, and other trip related expenses as they relocate to the Space Coast for multiday participation at Thunder on the Beach. Including these team expenses, as well as event organization and promotional expenditures incurred in logistically supporting race activities, constitutes, in aggregate, about $420k in spending across the categories of expenditure.

Suppose attendance was 100k: 1. The high-end estimate (75 rows divided by 2.5 miles) = 30 rows deep. Envision 30 rows of people, standing virtually side-by-side, lining the entire 2.5 mile strip; and, 2. The low-end estimate (60 divided by 2.5 miles) = 24 rows deep. Envision 24 rows of people lining the entire 2.5 mile strip. In a linear fashion, if attendance was 50k, we’d divide the numbers above by 2. In essence we’d observe about 12 to 15 rows of people lining the entire 2.5 miles. Similarly, if attendance was 25k, we’d expect to see 6 to 7.5 rows of people lining the entire 2.5 mile strip (side-by-side).

The final piece of the puzzle, then, is to ascertain what total population to apply both the proportional weights, and per person expenditures, too. The experience of all of the FIT business faculty surveyors was that the crowd, while noticeably fuller than the typical weekend, was not supportive of the notion of a football stadium emptied out onto the beaches. Visual evidence from assorted camera shots reveal both densely, somewhat full, and sparsely populated areas of the 2.5 mile racing zone.

Capacity parameters seemingly put a natural governor on crowd sizes. The magnitude of hotel rooms and parking spaces, the residential population of the Cocoa Beach Area outside snow-bird season, and the availability and moving capacity of public transportation to the beaches are suggestive of attendance ceilings far below 100,000. While many spectators viewed the race from platforms on the ocean and in condos adjoining the shoreline, it is our judgment that an estimated crowd of 20,000 is a reasoned and fair assessment of the spectating population at Thunder on the Beach.

What follows is a back of the envelope calculation to visualize what 100k, 50k and 25k attendance would look like on a 2.5 mile strip of beach. Daytona International Speedway was recently renovated. The main grandstand is “almost” a mile in length and holds about 101K people. The number of rows of seating is 77 for at least 3/4’s of the grandstand and about 59 for the central viewing area. If we use 75 rows for the high-end estimate and 60 rows for the low end estimate, the following calculations are derived.

Accordingly, with an estimated spectator population of 20,000, the apportionment percentages provided earlier in Figure 3 are used to calculate attendance counts by party type, which are detailed in Figure 9. About 1,900 overnighters and 2,600 daytrippers constitute the primary tourists for Thunder on Cocoa Beach. Additionally, about 10,400 locals visited the beaches for the purpose of observing the event. As a reminder, non-primaries, irrespective of whether they are locals or nonlocals, are not included in an impact assessment.

1,659

OVERNIGHT NON-PRIMARY

1,011

OVERNIGHT RETURNERS OVERNIGHT FIRST TIMERS

856

DAYTRIP NON-PRIMARY

2,273

DAYTRIP RETURNERS

1,435

DAYTRIP FIRST TIMERS

1,150

LOCAL NON-PRIMARY

1,193

LOCAL RETURNERS

8,315

LOCAL FIRST TIMERS

2,109

0

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SOURCE: FIT & SCOT

FIGURE 9: ATTENDANCE COUNT BY PARTY TYPE ESTIMATED BEACH CROWD = 20,000

1,500

3,000

4,500

6,000

7,500

9,000


Utilizing the per person spending profiles, by party, established in Table 1, with the population weights provided in Figure 9, an IMPLAN run was performed to establish the total economic impact of Thunder on Cocoa Beach. The results are detailed in Table 2a.

TABLE 2A: THUNDER ON COCOA BEACH GROSS ECONOMIC IMPACT IMPACT TYPE

DIRECT EFFECT INDIRECT EFFECT INDUCED EFFECT

TOTAL EFFECT

MULTIPLIER

16.4

2.2

2.5

21.1

1.29

LABOR INCOME

$410,585

$85,528

$96,924

$593,028

1.44

TOTAL INCOME

$726,239

$150,775

$178,207

$1,055,222

1.45

$1,313,835

$256,519

$289,549

$1,859,904

1.42

EMPLOYMENT

SALES

TABLE 2B: THUNDER ON COCOA BEACH GROSS ECONOMIC IMPACT – TOP 10 INDUSTRIES AFFECTED INDUSTRY SECTOR

EMPLOYMENT

LABOR INCOME

TOTAL INCOME

SALES

3.7

$109,959

$279,262

$457,690

9

$201,120

$287,650

$556,726

PROMOTERS OF PERFORMING ARTS AND SPORTS AND AGENTS FOR PUBLIC FIGURES

2.1

$34,226

$59,038

$137,697

MUSEUMS, HISTORICAL SITES, ZOOS, AND PARKS

0.5

$17,244

$41,118

$71,571

REAL ESTATE ESTABLISHMENTS

0.3

$4,281

$40,100

$51,113

0

$0

$35,623

$49,438

RETAIL STORES - GENERAL MERCHANDISE

0.9

$25,482

$38,242

$51,701

OTHER PERSONAL SERVICES

0.5

$22,095

$29,363

$59,722

TRANSIT AND GROUND PASSENGER TRANSPORTATION

0.4

$17,181

$15,444

$24,642

OFFICES OF PHYSICIANS, DENTISTS, AND OTHER HEALTH PRACTITIONERS

0.2

$14,840

$15,085

$24,465

HOTELS AND MOTELS, INCLUDING CASINO HOTELS FOOD SERVICES AND DRINKING PLACES

IMPUTED RENTAL ACTIVITY FOR OWNER-OCCUPIED DWELLINGS

All told, the expenditure flows associated with Thunder on Cocoa Beach generated a total sales effect of about $1.86 million, and a total income effect of about $1.055 million. Because some sales are actually inputs in the production of other final goods, income created is always a subset of the sales impact. Income includes both labor and nonlabor compensation (i.e., dividends, interest, and rents); for convenience, the subset of total income generated that would accrue solely to labor is also provided. Finally, the level of sales activity produced by Thunder on Cocoa Beach would support 21.1 full and part-time jobs.

Earlier in this report, a discussion of the multiplier process was provided which explained what the secondary effects (i.e., indirect and induced) were and how they led to a final effect (i.e., the total effect) that was a factor greater than the initial change in expenditure (i.e., the direct effect). The last column in Table 2a presents the employment, income, and sales multipliers for this study, which are based on the composition of spending by industrial category. Focusing on sales, in aggregate, each dollar of expenditure precipitated by Thunder on Cocoa Beach generated an additional 42¢ of sales. Multipliers of this magnitude are quite typical in Brevard County tourist studies. V I S I T S PA C E C O A S T. C O M |

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TABLE 3A: THUNDER ON COCOA BEACH GROSS ECONOMIC IMPACT (LOWER BOUND) IMPACT TYPE

DIRECT EFFECT INDIRECT EFFECT INDUCED EFFECT

TOTAL EFFECT

MULTIPLIER

13.1

1.9

2

17.1

1.31

LABOR INCOME

$330,048

$73,130

$78,772

$481,950

1.46

TOTAL INCOME

$610,218

$126,885

$144,850

$881,953

1.45

$1,095,867

$217,451

$235,348

$1,548,665

1.41

EMPLOYMENT

SALES

TABLE 3B: THUNDER ON COCOA BEACH GROSS ECONOMIC IMPACT – TOP 10 INDUSTRIES AFFECTED (LOWER BOUND) INDUSTRY SECTOR

EMPLOYMENT

LABOR INCOME

TOTAL INCOME

SALES

HOTELS AND MOTELS, INCLUDING CASINO HOTELS

3.7

$109,036

$276,916

$453,847

FOOD SERVICES AND DRINKING PLACES

6.3

$140,531

$200,993

$389,007

PROMOTERS OF PERFORMING ARTS AND SPORTS AND AGENTS FOR PUBLIC FIGURES

2.1

$34,205

$59,002

$137,613

MUSEUMS, HISTORICAL SITES, ZOOS, AND PARKS

0.5

$15,841

$37,773

$65,748

REAL ESTATE ESTABLISHMENTS

0.2

$3,418

$32,018

$40,810

0

$0

$28,952

$40,180

RETAIL STORES - GENERAL MERCHANDISE

0.6

$18,327

$27,505

$37,184

OTHER PERSONAL SERVICES

0.3

$11,001

$14,620

$29,736

TRANSIT AND GROUND PASSENGER TRANSPORTATION

0.4

$15,534

$13,963

$22,280

OFFICES OF PHYSICIANS, DENTISTS, AND OTHER HEALTH PRACTITIONERS

0.1

$12,065

$12,264

$19,889

IMPUTED RENTAL ACTIVITY FOR OWNER-OCCUPIED DWELLINGS

Table 2b peaks under the hood to highlight the top 10 industries impacted by Thunder on Cocoa Beach. Not unexpectedly, restaurants, lodging, and event promotion head the list. Utilizing a modified May average daily room rate (i.e., $155) for Cocoa Beach, Thunder on Cocoa Beach supported about 2,950 room nights (i.e., $457,690/$155). By similar logic, utilizing an average meal cost of $25, the event supported about 22,270 restaurant meals (i.e., $556,726/$25). A common point of issue with any economic impact assessment involves the role of substitution effects. For example, conventional wisdom amongst tourism officials is that local spending is irrelevant, as within the context of a local economy, it would have circulated (been spent) anyway. In fact, absent spending opportunities with an area, local dollars can “leak” away by outward migration, as residents find non-local draws for their leisure spending. Notwithstanding this point, we offer here a modified analysis where we take the differential between local primary spending vs. non-primary spending, about $10-$11 per person, and use that residual in an IMPLAN run, all other factors remaining constant. 5 0 | V I S I T S PA C E C O A S T. C O M

The logic is transparent. If locals would have been on the beach anyway, they would have spent, on average, as other locals would, who were not there to observe the race. To be clear, we believe it illogical that all these locals would still have been spending dollars absent the event. The analysis offered in Table 3a represents a lower bound of economic impact, all other factors remaining the same. All told, the expenditure flows would now generate a total sales effect of about $1.55 million, and a total income effect of about $0.882 million. Reviewing both results, a total economic impact of $1.55-$1.86 million is estimated, which addresses the issue of potential substitution effects. For completeness (see Table 3b), we have also included the top 10 industries affected. Including potential substitution effects, while impacting lodging and event promotion in a minor fashion, has its strongest dampening effect on restaurant meals. Utilizing an average meal cost of $25, the event would have now supported about 15,560 restaurant meals (i.e., $389,007/$25). We now turn our attention towards survey results uncovered with respect to marketing and promotion.


EVENT MARKETING Survey respondents who indicated they were both primary attendees and first timers were asked how they heard about the event. Possible pathways included News 13, newspaper, radio, social media, website, and word of mouth, and respondents could choose more than one response. A total of 137 primary attendees were first timers, and Figure 10 details the distribution of responses. While the modal answer was word of mouth, about onequarter of respondents highlighted the importance of social media in gaining event familiarity.

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SOURCE: FIT & SCOT

FIGURE 10: HOW DID YOU HEAR ABOUT THE EVENT? (N=137) 50% 45%

45.3%

40% 35% 30% 25% 24.9%

20% 15% 10%

9.5%

8.8%

5%

8.0% 3.6%

0% NEWS 13

NEWSPAPER

RADIO

SOCIAL MEDIA

WEBSITE

WORD OF MOUTH

FIGURE 11: HOW DID YOU HEAR ABOUT THE EVENT - PARTY TYPE? 60% 54.3 43.3

50% 41.7

40%

30% 26.7 23.6 22.9 LOCAL FIRST TIMERS

20% 14.3

DAYTRIP FIRST TIMERS

10%

9.7

11.4 6.7

9.7

10.0

13.3

8.6

5.7 OVERNIGHT FIRST TIMERS

2.8

0% NEWS 13

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NEWSPAPER

2.8

0.0

RADIO

SOCIAL MEDIA

WEBSITE

WORD OF MOUTH

SOURCE: FIT & SCOT

Figure 11 segments the distribution of responses by local, daytrip, or overnight category, to ascertain whether any particular pathway of information is more receptive by party type. Specifically with respect to the two dominant responses, social media, and word of mouth, the results are fairly uniform.


CONSUMER ORIGINS

FIGURE 11B: PERCENT OF ALL PRIMARY ATTENDEES BY ORIGIN (N=389) 50% 45%

46.3%

40% 35%

SOURCE: FIT & SCOT

Every survey respondent was asked for their home zip code, which allows us to pinpoint the county or state of origin. Our sample contained approximately 392 primary attendees, including five foreign nationals. Three recorded zip codes were incorrect, leaving 384 US Zip Codes plus 5 foreign country listings for tabulation. Figure 11 characterizes the primary attendee population into geographic spheres of recognition. Subsequent figures serve to further clarify this result. All told, about two-thirds of attendees hailed from Brevard County, with another 25% arriving from other Florida counties. About one in seven attendees reside in Cocoa Beach, and about 29% of attendees live within Cocoa Beach-Cape Canaveral-Merritt Island zip codes (see Figure 12).

30% 25%

25.7%

20%

20.8%

15% 10% 5%

5.9%

1.3%

0% BREVARD, PRIMARY

BREVARD, OTHER

FLORIDA, OUTSIDE BREVARD

NATIONAL

INTERNATIONAL

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OTHER, BREVARD

SOURCE: FIT & SCOT

FIGURE 12: PERCENT OF ALL PRIMARY ATTENDEES BY ORIGIN, BREVARD COUNTY 20.8%

32935

3.1%

32927

3.1%

32940

3.3%

32780

3.3%

32952

4.1%

32920

4.4%

32955

4.9%

32953

5.4%

32931

14.7%

0%

8%

16%

24%

As Figure 13 makes perfectly clear, the tourist market for Thunder on Cocoa Beach is currently a drive market. Of the 25.7% of primary attendees that hail from other Florida counties, about three in four originate from locales less than 90 minutes in driving time, and about 60 percent live in bordering counties.

SOURCE: FIT & SCOT

FIGURE 13: PERCENT OF ALL PRIMARY ATTENDEES BY ORIGIN, FLORIDA COUNTIES OUTSIDE BREVARD 0.3% 0.3% 0.3% 0.3% 0.3% 0.3% 0.5% 0.5% 0.5% 0.5% 0.5% 0.5% 0.5% 0.5% 0.5% 0.8% 1.0%

ST. JOHNS MIAMI-DADE MARION MANATEE LEE HIGHLANDS SUMTER ST. LUCIE SARASOTA PINELLAS INDIAN RIVER HILLSBOROUGH HERNADO FLAGLER BROWARD OSCEOLA LAKE

1.8% 1.8%

VOLUSIA POLK

2.3%

PALM BEACH

2.8%

SEMINOLE

9.0%

ORANGE

0%

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2%

4%

6%

8%

10%


1.3%

INTERNATIONALS INDIANA

0.3%

WISCONSIN

0.3%

TEXAS

0.3%

OHIO

0.3%

NORTH CAROLINA

0.3%

MICHIGAN

0.3%

CONNECTICUT

0.3%

GEORGIA

0.3%

VIRGINIA

0.5%

TENNESSEE

0.5%

MARYLAND

0.5%

MISSOURI ILLINOIS

SOURCE: FIT & SCOT

FIGURE 14: PERCENT OF ALL PRIMARY ATTENDEES BY ORIGIN, NATIONAL & INTERNATIONAL SEGMENT

1.0% 1.3%

And finally, Figure 14 provides a snapshot of visitor statewide distribution, as well as foreign nationals. All together, these 0%about 7% of the market. 2% 4% 6% 8% non-Floridians comprise

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DISCUSSION Beach activities are the centerpiece of tourism on the Space Coast, and in that respect, Thunder on Cocoa Beach, which combines elements of beach, sports, and leisure recreation, is tailor-made for Brevard County. That it generates about $1,000,000 of income for the community as a whole in addition to providing affordable recreation amenity for local residents reinforces the SCOTs decision of financial support, as it does for the fifty or so local businesses, NGOs, and local governments who are also stakeholders. For purposes of improvement, what can be learned from this effort at economic assessment, specifically with regard to sustaining the event’s success? An historical examination of the SBI schedule, like other sporting tours, reveals fluctuation. Races come and go, and sometimes return. A sanctioning body, that collects a non-insignificant sanctioning fee, will always be a readily available participant, as will be beach attendees, the vast majority of which receive an uncommon leisure experience without a direct financial outlay. Environmental restrictions can play an inhibiting role, but Thunder on Cocoa Beach is compliant with its obligations concerning sea turtles no issues have been reported to date. The critical pillar providing the foundation for event sustainability is the ability of the local promoter to generate sufficient revenues, through sponsorships or ticket sales, to cover the event’s threshold expenditures is the ultimate factor which makes or break this type of competition. While the event is essentially free, ticketed prime seating opportunities are available at strategically-placed tents and at the Westgate Cocoa Beach Pier. On the expenditure side, it certainly is helpful that the Thunder on Cocoa Beach promoter abstains from direct compensation for his efforts, which should not be considered usual or expected. The limiting factor of this event is the entry fee for an SBI competition, which could exceed $200,000. An activity can provide economic stimulus to a community, but if it is compromised from a budgetary perspective, it isn’t sustainable. Fortunately for Thunder on Cocoa Beach, its promoter, Kerry Bartlett, reported in a postevent interview that he thought 2017 was probably his best year ever in terms of ticket sales and overall budgetary revenues. While that is certainly news to be celebrated, complacency should be avoided at all costs. The disappearance of formerly successful competitions provides ample warning of potential budgetary hazards, even if the current horizon is blue and clear. In conclusion, continuing efforts in sponsorship development are necessary. Further recruitment of volunteers to facilitate and coordinate all aspects of the event including race logistics is a vital task. Additionally, enhancement of the ticketed event experience, including where and when to market, may provide a revenue boost and budgetary cushioning. While 2017 may have been the best year ever, it’s hard to argue with the notion that further monetizing of the racing experience with suitable tweaking of the ticketed product is possible and desirable. Speed boat enthusiasts along the Space Coast, tourists and locals alike, look forward to races to come! See you on the beach. 5 6 | V I S I T S PA C E C O A S T. C O M


The

Legacy B


SEBASTIAN INLET AND

THE LEGACY BREAK By Mike Slotkin Associate Professor of Economics Florida Institute of Technology

reak

In the sandwich years of the Great Recession, the real estate bubble-and-burst era for Florida’s Space Coast, World Surf League (WSL) Qualifying Series Competitions were held annually at Sebastian Inlet, home of the East Coast’s iconic “First Peak” surf break. From 2005-10, sanctioned events, under the management of local promoter Mitch Varnes, graced the January waves of Sebastian Inlet. The events were title sponsored by leading surf apparel companies, and brought with them past, present, and future WSL champions and the corresponding artistry of worldclass surfing. Regrettably, that headline ended about eightyears ago, just one of the many economic casualties of the Great Recession. During the downturn, the Space Coast community had thousands of stories of opportunities forfeited, and all are heart-breaking. No less so for the tourism sector. Included in the 22,500 jobs lost on the Space Coast were 2,000 leisure and hospitality workers, about 8.6 percent of that sector’s employment base. On a global scale, the Great Recession hammered the surf apparel and merchandise sector, and with it, critical sponsorship dollars needed to fund and promote sporting competitions. From the 40-50 qualifying series events typically held annually, a schedule contraction occurred, and one of those contests to disappear was the Sebastian Inlet competition.

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Well, it’s back, a rebirth long-awaited. In January 2018, after an eight-year hiatus, the Florida Pro at Sebastian Inlet takes place, bringing with it an expected upper echelon of surfing talent. Competitions will occur for men, women, and at the master’s level (ages 40 and up), which should ensure the appearance of A-list surfers across a generational span. Hosted by the Florida Surf Museum, with Varnes hired as the event producer, the Florida Pro marks a new relationship between the Space Coast Office of Tourism (SCOT) and Sebastian Inlet-based qualifying series competitions. Why that is, and more specifically, why the SCOT leadership believes that a premier surfing competition held at the inlet is important for Space Coast tourism, is an issue this feature seeks to explore.

SEBASTIAN INLET Located on the border of Brevard and Indian River Counties, Sebastian Inlet connects the Indian River Lagoon to the Atlantic Ocean. Its modern incarnation dates back to the period just after World War II, when a blast re-opening of the inlet was followed by periodic dredging projects as well as the construction and extensions of jetties (see SebastianInletDistrict.com for more details on the inlet’s history). During the late 1950s and early 1960s, Jack Murphy and Dick Catri pioneered surfing at the inlet, with the latter, who died in May 2017, credited with gaining recognition from the state of Florida for the inlet to be classified and utilized as a surfing destination. Prior to that recognition, surfing at the inlet was illegal, and surfers were subject to arrest as well as physical assault from fisherman competing for the same space. The extension of the inlet’s north jetty in conjunction with the refraction properties associated with the jetty’s angle to the beach created what was commonly regarded as the best wave in the State of Florida. First Peak, essentially an accidental byproduct in the quest to maintain a navigable channel, became a magnet for the best surfers on the East Coast of the United States. Four-time world champions Frieda Zamba and Lisa Andersen, 11-time world champion Kelly Slater, world champion C.J. Hobgood, and scores of professional and amateur champion surfers honed their skills at Sebastian Inlet. Brevard County resident Matt Kechele, who turned pro in 1978 and won numerous surf contests over the next few decades, remembers those years. “My first day at the inlet - I was 13-years-old,” Kechele recalls. “It was very apparent that the inlet waves, with their mixed wedges, were unlike any other waves in Brevard County. I didn’t notice First Peak so much as the power and mixed wedges coming in up the beach. It was obvious the waves had much more appeal and challenge to me. Having seen many classic pictures of the inlet in the old surf magazines, it felt great to finally experience them first hand. I felt compelled to learn and master the inlet waves as well as earn some respect in the lineup. Years later, after I got to surf other spots around the world, I began to realize how unique the inlet wedge is and why it’s so unique to our area!”

6 0 | V I S I T S PA C E C O A S T. C O M

SURFING CAPITAL OF THE EAST COAST Given the majesty of First Peak, it’s not surprising that surfing competitions became a regular feature at Sebastian Inlet. Beginning in the 1970s, the Eastern Surfing Association, the governing body of amateur surfing on the East Coast of the United States, hosted numerous competitions, and in the late 1970s to early 1980s, the Stubbies Pro was held, hosted by the Australian clothing manufacturer. At that time, many of


the best surfers rode for Stubbies, including world champions Wayne Bartholomew, Shaun Tomson, and Peter Townend. The Stubbies Tour, a series of events sponsored by the clothing line, held events at all the traditional locales – Australia’s Gold Coast, Hawaii, California – as well as the inlet.

At about the same time Matt Kechele began producing the “King of the Peak” competition, which in addition to carrying $10,000-$12,000 in prize money (a healthy sum, in those days, for regional surf contests), offered substantial local prestige for the winner.

Fast forward a decade or so later and the Bud Pro Tour, with Budweiser as the title sponsor, had a 3-4 year run, produced by Body Glove. Events were held on both the East and West Coast – New Jersey, Sebastian Inlet, and California – and the tour did a great deal in promoting surfing in the United States.

But it took until the early years of the new millennium for the introduction of qualifying series contests to emerge under Varnes’ management. Partnering with Australian-based Globe International (2005-06), and then California-based O’Neill (2007-10), Varnes promoted Association of Surfing

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Professionals (ASP) sanctioned events at the inlet for six consecutive years (prior to 2014 the WSL was the ASP). The subtext of these efforts had much to do with surf apparel market penetration.

calendar year. As such, both up-and-comers as well as some established world stars can typically be observed at qualifying series surfing contests. For the surfing royalty, however, it’s less common.

As Varnes recalled, “The East Coast was actually a very big deal to the clothing companies. Up until the Great Recession, they sponsored every major surf competition, whether it was the Roxy Pro, the Quicksilver Pro, the Billabong Pro, or the Hurley Pro. I can’t remember the exact figure, but I think at that time that the East Coast was about one-third of the worldwide market for surf apparel. The companies wanted a toehold on the East Coast even though the East Coast – Florida, New Jersey, North Carolina – was looked upon as the red-headed step-child of the surfing industry. The epicenter of the surf world to them was California where they were based.”

But the surfing elites did arrive. The Globe Pro showcased the return of big time surfing to Florida; widely heralded and touted, it also marked the return of ASP sanctioned events to the East Coast of the United States, which basically had gone a decade without. Tom Curren, a threetime world champion; brothers Cory and Shea Lopez, from Florida’s Gulf Coast; and the Hobgood brothers, C.J. and Damien all surfed the Globe Pro. Kelly Slater came to the event, and it is still the last ASP sanctioned event he has surfed in Florida. Varnes reminisced about that first foray, “Pretty much everybody who was anybody within 10 years preceding the event, as well as surfers now superstars including John John Florence, the current world champion, came and surfed our event.”

After a few years in the planning stage, The Globe Pro was launched in 2005 with a second run in 2006, in both instances as 4-Star ASP Qualifying Series contests. The qualifying series star system runs from 1 to 6, and correlates with both purse size and qualifying points earned. Typically speaking, the larger the purse size the more attractive the field; and the better the field, the larger the qualifying points available. And qualifying points are a surfer’s ticket to the world tour. Similar to the professional golfing tours, the world tour, based on a points formula, retains a subset (i.e., 22) of its yearly competitors (32 surfers plus two wildcards). The churn is accomplished by relegation of the bottom 10 surfers in concert with promotion of the top 10 qualifying points earners. Oftentimes, surfers on the world tour, recognizing that they may be headed for relegation, employ a hedging strategy by participating in both world tour and qualifying series contests in the same

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The Globe Pro morphed into the O’Neill Sebastian Inlet Pro for the years 2007-10, at one point earning a 5-star rating, and to this day is still the second biggest event ever to be held on the East Coast of the United States (the world tour had a one-and-done contest in New York City in 2011 sponsored by Quiksilver). By utilizing the relatively idle January surf window, the inlet contests capitalized on the concurrent running of Surf Expo in Orlando, a gathering in the thousands. Surfers could appease their sponsors by making a trade show appearance, but also utilize the time for early season point gathering at a conveniently placed event. And it worked for a while – 6-years actually – but then like the voice-over from one of those 1980s heavy metal rock band documentaries, “It all came crashing down.”


With the calamity firmly in the rear view mirror, it’s a bit easier to examine the losses from the Great Recession without getting sick to one’s stomach. Nationally, production of final goods and services (real GDP) fell by a little over 4 percent, with non-farm employment – basically payroll jobs – declining by 6.3 percent. Along the Space Coast, real GDP decreased by 5 percent, and when compounded with employment losses derived from NASA’s retirement of the space shuttle program, payroll jobs ultimately fell by about 10 percent. For the surfing industry, and in particular, its key merchandisers, the story was no different. Quiksilver went into and emerged from bankruptcy, Billabong took major hits, and in some respects, the industry never completely recovered.

Garvey is candid and clear-eyed on the direct benefits derived from the event itself. Capacity constraints at the inlet put a natural ceiling on the scope of event attendance, and as for year-round surfing at the inlet, it’s an open-access resource that’s highly localized. The notion that tourists by the thousands will punch admit tickets and secure spots in the inlet line-up is absurd. But as Garvey notes, “It’s not about direct effects but spillover benefits. Any form of storytelling that conveys the area’s rich history, whether it be as a launching pad for the moon or the birthing ground of surfing champions, provides a reason for somebody to come visit us. To me, it makes more sense for the destination itself to manage and control that message.”

This had a spillover effect on WSL sanctioned events, as the surf apparel giants, traditionally providing some of the critical sponsorship dollars, closed the spigot. The number of events dropped precipitously – Varnes guardedly estimates at something like 40 percent – and the contraction was especially severe for U.S. mainland sanctioned contests. Now that economic recovery, and in parallel fashion, qualifying series recovery, are firmly rooted, it is interesting to note that for the latter, boards of tourism have picked up the slack, filling the funding vacuum. For Brevard County, whose bed tax collections through the first 10 months of fiscal year 2017, $11.8 million, are about 70 percent greater than they were seven-years ago, the opportunity is now.

In January 2018, the surfing fraternity and sorority will reconvene at the inlet for a gathering last witnessed here eight-years ago. The event, noteworthy in its own right for the assemblage of past and present surfing icons, as well as future champions awaiting their moment, carries the additional distinction of being the first U.S. qualify surf contest in which the women’s prize purse is more than the men’s. On the men’s side, a $25,000 purse will be distributed in a QS 1500 (points available) classifications, while the women’s $55,500 purse will be awarded in a QS6000 classification. As stated earlier, this makes the 2018 Florida Pro the highest caliber women’s event ever to be held on the East Coast.

A NEW BENEFACTOR And that’s where our story comes back to the SCOT and its executive leadership, because make no mistake about it, the SCOT is the rainmaker here. The 2018 Florida Pro at Sebastian Inlet is happening because they want it to. As the major underwriter, the SCOT obligation, which requires an equivalent match, is slightly in excess of $117,000. The SCOT leadership desires the biggest surfing event on the East Coast of the United States, and they’ll get it, on the women’s side. So I thought it appropriate to ask them why. Eric Garvey, executive director of the SCOT, envisions a multi-year effort in cementing the contest as a permanent feature of the event calendar for Brevard County and the state of Florida. The ulterior purpose is to showcase and preserve the rich legacy of surfing in the state, a heritage celebrated through a gathering of its most accomplished practitioners at an iconic surfing destination. “To me it’s all about our destination’s brand. In today’s marketplace, destination marketing is all about storytelling, about being able to give potential guests to your area a flavor for why they should come for a visit. To me, re-establishing the inlet surf contest is aligned with telling our story – of Kelly Slater, the Hobgood brothers, Ron Jon Surf Shop, of the Florida Surf Museum, and of Cocoa Beach and the pier. It highlights why we are at the epicenter of Florida surfing, and it explains our destination in an authentic way, about why surfing is in our DNA.”

Paying tribute to the surfers of the ‘80s and ‘90s, the Florida Pro has an additional competitive segment for those former stars that are now in excess of 40 years of age. A Champions and Icons competition (≥ 40 years of age), with $20,000 in prize money, should ensure that a few former world tour pros, as well as other regional and national surfing icons return, as the inlet calls her children home. The 2001 WSL World Champion C.J. Hobgood, who was raised on the Space Coast and will serve as an ambassador for the Florida Pro, said it best, “[When I see] Sebastian Inlet and the wave at First Peak I see the initial spark that contributed to a whole generation of surfers coming out of Florida and making an impact! It brought us – the Florida surfing tribe – together on a daily basis. Other surfers, from all over, wanted to see what the best surfers in Florida were doing. So this brought people in from across the U.S. and other parts of the world. Everyone pushed each other, and once one person made it, well, the rest of the crew believed they should as well. First Peak nurtured us, brought us together, and helped us reach the pinnacle of our sport. A competition running at Sebastian is the culmination of all this!”

The author wishes to express his gratitude to Eric Garvey, C.J. Hobgood, Matt Kechele, and Mitch Varnes for their valuable input. For more details on the Florida Pro, please visit FlaProSurf.com.

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Florida’s Space Coast Office of Tourism 430 Brevard Avenue Suite 150, Cocoa, FL 32922

6 4 | V I S I T S PA C E C O A S T. C O M

Phone: (877) 57-BEACH (2-3224) (321) 433-4470 Fax: (321) 433-4476

Fall 2017 Tourism Report - Florida's Space Coast  

The inaugural edition of Florida's Space Coast tourism intelligence publication.

Fall 2017 Tourism Report - Florida's Space Coast  

The inaugural edition of Florida's Space Coast tourism intelligence publication.