Tuesday, April 24, 2018
Business

Study: 'Bollywood Oscars' visitors spent $19.9 million in Hillsborough

TAMPA — Visitors who came to Hillsborough County for April's "Bollywood Oscars" spent $19.9 million, and the four-day event's total economic impact reached $26.4 million as businesses stocked up and visitors' money was respent locally, officials said Tuesday.

The Mumbai-based International Indian Film Academy said the local economic impact of its 15th annual IIFA Weekend & Awards from April 23 to 26 was bigger in the Tampa Bay area than in any previous host city except for Toronto in 2011.

"Every day of the weekend was an astounding success," IIFA director Andre Timmins said in a statement. "Beyond the positive short-term impact of the weekend, we look forward to building a great legacy with the city, developing business, trade and film production relations between India and Tampa Bay."

Visit Tampa Bay, Hillsborough County's nonprofit tourism bureau, commissioned the study from the Bonn Marketing Research Group of Tallahassee, with numbers on hotel occupancy and revenue coming from Smith Travel Research.

For the study, the Bonn group interviewed 400 people who came to Hillsborough for the IIFA weekend about where they were from, where they were staying and how much they were spending, among other things. That survey data, plus hotel data from Smith Travel Research, were fed into an economic model that produced the overall numbers.

The study looked at three categories of spending: direct spending by visitors; induced spending (how locals respent the visitors' dollars) and indirect spending (what hotels, restaurants, shops and attractions spent to prepare for IIFA). Combined, those three produced the overall economic impact number of $26.4 million.

But the study did not consider what economists call displacement — or how much normal business gets crowded out by a special event.

It was a factor, for example, when the Republican National Convention came to Tampa in 2012. During that week, Tampa Bay area bars and restaurants saw so many of their regulars stay home that their sales either dropped or lagged behind the rest of Florida. A University of Tampa economist's study of RNC-related spending estimated that negative impact at $2.3 million.

Done on a tight deadline, the IIFA study did not get into displacement the way a larger study would have, said Mark Bonn, a professor at the Dedman School of Hospitality in Florida State University's College of Business, who oversaw the study.

In the days leading up to the IIFA awards, the evidence was anecdotal and mixed.

For example, hoteliers in West Shore said their reservations weren't running close to what they had expected. At least one hotel, the 244-room Westin Tampa Bay, had turned down some group business in the expectation of an IIFA sellout. On the other hand, its manager said the IIFA had not scared away corporate travelers the week before the event the way a Super Bowl does.

Visit Tampa Bay president and CEO Santiago Corrada said he was confident of the study's conclusions, especially because numbers gathered by Smith Travel Research found healthy boosts in occupancy, room rates and hotel revenue.

"I saw some of the direct spending firsthand," Corrada said. On April 26, the night of the awards show, hotels in Hillsborough saw a 21 percent increase in occupancy, nearly a 35 percent increase in their average daily room rate and a 62 percent increase in hotel revenue when compared with the same day the year before.

"Based on the bed tax collected and revenues collected, it appears that it just enhanced business," Corrada said. "I don't see that it displaced much of anything. In fact, I think it helped make April a record-breaking month."

Noting that he's seeing promotions for a June 15 broadcast of the Tampa awards show on the Indian cable network Star Plus, Corrada said the afterglow hasn't faded yet.

"The IIFA effect continues," he said. "They are still continuing to market and promote this destination."

Richard Danielson can be reached at (813) 226-3403, [email protected] or on Twitter @Danielson_Times.

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