Bollywood Oscars good for business, but probably not as good as tourism chief says

Fans try to get a glimpse of stars on the green carpet before the IIFA awards last month at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.
Fans try to get a glimpse of stars on the green carpet before the IIFA awards last month at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.
Published May 8, 2014

TAMPA — The "Bollywood Oscars" were a smashing success, Hillsborough County's tourism director told commissioners Wednesday, bringing more than $30 million to the county.

That estimate of what visitors spent during the four-day gala is preliminary, Visit Tampa Bay president Santiago Corrada said after his presentation, but he doesn't expect it to change too much.

"It's going to fluctuate a little bit," Corrada said.

The number will actually fluctuate a lot, according to the guy who came up with it.

In a phone interview, Mark Bonn, president of Bonn Marketing research company, said the figure could drop by $10 million to $20 million, based on revised attendance numbers he got Wednesday. This would bring it closer to earlier estimates for economic impact of $10 million to $15 million.

The $30 million estimate was based on an attendance forecast from February, Bonn said. Corrada said Bonn had been using 31,000 — an early guess at attendance for the April 26 International Indian Film Academy Awards show. Actual attendance at Raymond James Stadium was about 24,000.

"That's fine. … We'll go with whatever number he comes up with," Corrada said by phone Wednesday evening. Corrada added he felt Bonn's model could underestimate economic impact, since it doesn't count people who came for the gala weekend but did not attend Saturday's show.

"There's no scientific way to give you a precise number," he said. "That's a problem in our industry."

Bonn still needs to interview officials with Wizcraft — the Mumbai-based company that owns IIFA — before plugging numbers into a model that produces final economic impact estimates. Bonn's figures also will be based on about 400 surveys completed by visitors to Tampa for the gala, which started April 23.

"It's still a really big event. It's just not as big," Bonn said. "I don't think it's going to be something that will disappoint anyone."

Bonn said his final results should be ready next week.

Corrada released several figures Wednesday, including hotel occupancy results. Hillsborough hotels saw increased occupancy rates and rental rates throughout the weekend, Corrada said, peaking Saturday. Hotels saw a 21 percent increase in occupancy compared to that day in 2013, and a jump in average rate from $84 to $113.

Those numbers came from Smith Travel Research, Corrada said, and are final.

"They're the Bible," he said of the firm.

Will Hobson can be reached at (813) 226-3400 or