Margaret Enloe, executive director of Waterfowl Chesapeake, gave an overview of an impact study of the 2019 Waterfowl Festival to the Easton town council during its Monday night meeting.
Enloe said Waterfowl Chesapeake got a grant for infrastructure work leading up to the 50th Waterfowl Festival, which would have been held in 2020 and is now set for this fall.
“And we considered this study to be part of that infrastructure work leading up to our 50th event,” Enloe said. “Obviously, the 2020 festival was postponed. So here we are in the beginning of 2021, to talk about 2019 economic impact and cultural impact results.”
“And what’s really different about this impact report is that we’re looking at cultural feelings about our event as well,” she said. “We didn’t want to just present numbers, we wanted to know what our local residents and our visitors thought about us.
“We did this in preparation for our 50th festival,” Enloe said. “As I mentioned, we wanted to measure and analyze the full economic contribution that our organization as well as our visitors make to the community. And we wanted to understand the community’s feelings about us.
“So our total economic impact, the big number for 2019, was $2.6 million in impact that was generated from the 2019 Waterfowl Festival — that’s already been out there. I figured I might as well start with the big number, but let me explain a little bit about it.
“What’s very important to understand about this report, and actually any tourism reports that you get is the definition of a visitor,” she said. “There is a very specific definition. And it’s someone who has traveled 50 or more miles to come to an event, or who has stayed overnight.
“And in our case, we’re the primary reason they came that is the definition of a visitor. The reason this is important is we’re measuring new revenues to the county…, meaning someone that doesn’t live here, someone that’s come here and spent here.
“For us, attendees is how many people come. So we had just over 15,000 people in 2019 — 45% of those meet that visitor definition,” she said. “We had just over 8,200 people that came from within 50 miles of Easton to attend Waterfowl Festival.
“(F)estival initiated activities supported a total of 48 jobs full and part time in the county and $1.6 million in wages paid in the county. And you have to understand that those wages of course ripple out in terms of their economic impact as people buy groceries they go out themselves and spend on our businesses.”
Enloe said festival attendees spend much more on shopping than the typical visitor to Talbot County.
“They really, really shop. The average Talbot County visitors spent on retail last year was $50. Waterfall festival visitors spent more than two and a half times that when they arrive here,” she said. “Shopping is about 32% of their spending. Food and beverage is a fairly large portion of their spending as well. We are the entertainment I think in town. But if you look at restaurants and shopping, that’s more than half of visitor spending on those two categories.
“In terms of lodging, lodging is quote ‘only’ 20%. But the amount spent on lodging by visitors on waterfowl weekend represents more than half of the lodging spent in Easton for the entire month of November. So it’s very important to notice that this is sort of our year end culmination in terms of tourism.
“(V)isitors are split between day trippers and overnight guests. So remember that the definition of a visitor is if they travel more than 50 miles, or if they spend the night,” Enloe said. “So we have quite a few day trippers. We’re kind of around 40% stay one or even two nights, roughly 20% stay more than three nights, which we are really surprised to discover that. Party size is pretty close to three people.
“(O)ne of the things that I find really interesting, which is not a surprise, actually … is accommodations. Most are in a hotel or motel. We have a really high number. So we have pretty high spending on lodging in this county. And most of it, as you can see is in Easton — people do stay in the other towns in our county — but East0n is definitely the main place.
“So what do our attendees and residents think about the festival? This was really interesting to me. And I think this number, the net promoter score of 67 is to me one of the most important pieces of this pie,” she said. “If you have a net promoter score, it’s a measure of customer loyalty. It is the single most correlated satisfaction metric with profitability, but also with people returning.
“If you want to improve your event, you look at your net promoter score, and you watch and you see how it changes. So it’s an important measure to know who’s going to visit again, who’s likely going to promote your events, and a good net promoter score, a very good score, is 60. Without fail, we pretty much put the net promoter score out of the water.”
The scores included:
• Overnight guests, especially in Easton — 90
• Visitors whose primary reasons were to enjoy the cultural heritage of the Shore and because attending is a family tradition — 86
• First time visitors — 86
• Repeat visitors — 83
• Other visitors — 74
“And even our own Talbot County residents who have to put up with traffic issues and all sorts of other things for festival weekend, still give us an amazing net promoter score,” Enloe said. The score from locals was 62.
“I want to take a moment here to mention that if this is accurate, with one year of not having the festival and this incredible customer loyalty, I think we’re going to have to hold on to our seats for this November, which in my opinion, is exactly how a 50th anniversary celebration should be,” she said. “So I think we have a lot to look forward to this year.
“So 89% of attendees — so remember that’s everyone — were satisfied or extremely satisfied with the festival; 82% of residents believe that we’re very important … for celebrating and showcasing local culture; 75% of residents think the festival is very important or essential for providing recreational and educational opportunities; 83% of residents believe we are very important or essential for the local economy; (and) 81% believe we are important or essential for promoting local attractions and amenities.”
“I love the fact that 99% of the visitors plan to come back to our county again. Residents opinion 63% believe that we’re important for uniting the community towards a common goal,” Enloe said. “I love that, that was a surprise factor to me, I really was thrilled with that.
Residents also believe the festival is very important or essential to “igniting a sense of community price” (77%) and to providing opportunities for more engagement (71%).
“So wrapping up, we are a community nonprofit organization, we’re a valuable asset for county tourism and economic development. We are now in our fourth generation of guests,” Enloe said. “Please just pause for a minute and think about that. What other festival that’s community run and community supported in this country can claim that they’re on their 50th year?
“A lot of festivals have gone by the wayside,” she said. “We haven’t because our community supports us. We have 750 volunteers that come out, the countless in-kind businesses that come out, we believe we’re going to be a critical part of the recovery for 2021.”
The Waterfowl Festival will mark its 50th year during this year’s event, scheduled for Friday, Nov. 12, through Sunday, Nov. 14.