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Visitor Metrics for Sporting Events: Three Ways to Obtain a Reliable Attendance Number

Author: Joy Lin
Posted: March 05, 2014
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Part of evaluating your success as a DMO is tracking how much new visitor money is coming into your destination. This is especially the case with events. We often assume some daily average to explain spending: “On average, every attendee coming to Pleasantville adds $100 a day to our local economy.”

With attendance driving spending, understanding how many attendees actually visit our destinations is critical.

Using peak room nights as an estimate of attendees has become more and more inaccurate. It introduces a real risk of undercounting attendance due to several factors:

  • Multiple people staying in one room,
  • Delegates staying outside of the designated room block, or
  • Travelers driving in for the day.

Counting attendance of a sporting event based on peak rooms gets even more complicated due to:

  • Different levels of competition generate different hotel booking behavior.
  • Entire teams book their own accommodations or can opt out of an assigned room block.
  • Participants’ friends and family that attend the event are difficult to track.

Based on rigorous discussion, the DMO industry has taken what looks to be a hopeless situation and found ways to approach it from multiple directions to accurately quantify attendance and associated room demand.

“When Tourism Economics and DMAI developed the Sports Module of the Event Impact Calculator, we consulted a task force of about ten DMOs on the best ways to estimate the number of attendees at a sporting event,” said Adam Sacks, President of Tourism Economics. “First, we learned that there’s no single way to go about it.  Second, we learned that you can reach accurate attendance estimates by employing one of three different methods for calculation depending on the nature of the event.”

Here’s information on each method and when they would be applicable:

1.The Straight from the Source Method

The event organizer can be a wealth of information. More than likely, they can provide past attendance numbers, or at the very least, a good estimate based on their familiarity with the event.

2.The Entourage Method

For many events, especially on the amateur level, each participant brings along a fan club of spectators to their game or tournament. This could include Mom and Dad, a brother or grandparent. Depending on the level of competition, this ratio could be as little as 0.50 or as large as 2.3 spectators per participant. Taking these spectators into account helps you get to a more accurate total attendance figure.

3.The Ticket Method

If an event has ticketed entry, start with that number and make adjustments. The adjustments should take into account the total number events held and how many events each spectator usually attends to avoid double counting.

Of course, reaching an attendance number is only half of the equation. Knowing how much money a visitor brings to your destination takes a little something more. Often destinations conduct localized and comprehensive studies, which is why last year, DMAI released a new standard for understanding the economic impact of sporting events so that our numbers – as an industry – are consistent and defensible.

So, as attendance has become one of the biggest drivers of event impact calculations for nearly 70 destinations using DMAI’s Sports Module, be sure that it’s driving yours as well.

To learn more about how these DMOs are leveraging attendance to estimate spending, sign up for the live demonstration with Tourism Economics’ Adam Sacks next week.

Headed to NASC? You can also learn more about developing this important segment in your destination through a course dedicated to DMOs and their suppliers: Sports in Destination Marketing and Management.