Cultural Event Marketing: How hotels are profiting from cultural events

By John Poimiroo Principal, Poimiroo & Partners | October 28, 2008

Cultural events have long been touted by arts organizations as benefiting hotels. Research studies by the Los Angeles County-based organizations prove the claim.

In the late 1990s and again in the early 2000s, the effectiveness of major art exhibits to attract visitors to Los Angeles County were studied by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and by The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) as driven by LA Inc.'s (the Convention and Visitors Bureau's) Cultural Tourism Department. Those studies documented not just the economic and social impact of major Vincent Van Gogh and Andy Warhol exhibitions, but proved once and for all time that strong exhibits - effectively promoted - attract out-of-town visitors, sell rooms and can be extremely lucrative to hotels.

Van Gogh

The first of the two studies, conducted by Morey and Associates, Inc., reviewed a Van Gogh exhibition held at LACMA in 1998-99. The exhibit brought 71 Van Gogh masterpieces to LACMA from Amsterdam for a once-in-America opportunity to see them. 821,000 incremental visitors were attracted to the museum, including an increase of first-time, non-resident visitors to the museum (those who do not live in Los Angeles County) from 34% to 52%. 67% of non-resident visitors stayed in hotel accommodations, up from the norm of 44%, generating 81,896 additional room nights.

Attendees at the Van Gogh exhibit spent like crazy, establishing that cultural tourists are among the most lucrative guests to attract. Although residents (again, those living inside L.A. County) outnumbered nonresidents two to one, the nonresidents spent more than 2.4 times more than residents, generating over $48 million in direct and indirect spending. And, it wasn't just hotel rooms and museum tickets they purchased. They bought meals, transportation, fuel, groceries, entertainment and went shopping, spending $196.80 per day on average.

The Beverly Wilshire (famous as the posh Beverly Hills hotel seen in the motion picture "Pretty Woman") "did over $1 million in room bookings on an investment of $40,000," said Robert Barrett who was director of LA Inc.'s Cultural Tourism Department at the time and now is Marketing Manager for the City of Rancho Mirage. "And, that does not take into account their additional revenue from in-room and in-hotel charges," he added.

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