Study: Tour of Mo. spectators spent $38.1M

Friday, October 2, 2009
Racers finish Stage Two of the Tour of Missouri on Main Street in downtown Cape Girardeau. (Fred Lynch)

The Tour of Missouri drew more people from outside Missouri and, on average, they stayed longer while spending about 14 percent less than out-of-state spectators for the 2008 race, according to a preliminary report on the race's economic impact.

The report was based on a survey of about 3,500 people attending either a start or finish event during this year's race, said Dave Porthouse, vice president of IFM Sports, a German consulting firm with a U.S. headquarters in St. Louis. The race ran from Sept. 7 to Sept. 13 and included a finish Sept. 8 in Cape Girardeau.

Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder presented a summary of the findings at a Missouri Tourism Commission meeting Thursday in Branson, Mo. Kinder, who is also chairman of the commission, has been the race's most vocal proponent and the catalyst behind $2 million in annual state funding for the race.

Overall, the survey said, 314,000 people watched at least part of the Tour, with many attending for multiple days. Total attendance was about 500,000, Kinder said.

Those attending the race are estimated to have spent about $38.1 million, up from $29.8 million in 2008. "This year's race was a huge success thanks to the tremendous efforts of each of our host cities, corporate sponsors, Missouri State Highway Patrol, Missouri Department of Transportation and spectators from across the world," Kinder said in a news release announcing the results of the survey.

The average out-of-state visitor spent $97.57 per day while attending the race, the survey reported. The average party size for visitors was 2.29, and each spectator stayed in the state an average of 4.32 days.

The survey had a margin of error of 1.5 percent, Porthouse said, making it a good statistical snapshot of the spectators.

Using the survey results and crowd estimates supplied by the highway patrol and local police, the number of out-of-state visitors was estimated at 48,851, up from 36,984 in 2008, Porthouse said. Spectators who live within the state included 224,206 people who watched a part of the race without leaving their hometown and 40,638 people who traveled to another Missouri town to catch a leg of the race. In-state travelers attended for an average of 3.79 days each and spent, on average, $77.27 per day.

Of the out-of-state survey respondents, 83 percent said they came to the state specifically to watch the Tour riders. That is up from 78 percent in 2008, Porthouse said, but he noted that a time-trial race, held in Branson in 2008, was held in Sedalia, Mo., in 2009.

Branson, a prime tourist destination, is more likely to have visitors in the state for entertainment who chose the Tour on impulse, he said. The move to Sedalia likely helped increase the share of dedicated tourists.

"When you are surveying fans at a sporting event, you expect most of them to be there on purpose," Porthouse said.

Out-of-state visitors spent 10 to 34 percent less per person in each of six categories measured, the survey showed. Porthouse attributed part of the cutback to economic conditions, but a 26.5 percent reduction in transportation costs is likely due to lower fuel prices, he said.

But the bigger crowds offset the lower spending, Porthouse said. "There was modest growth over a number of positive categories that appeared to be in line with the goals of the organizers," he said.

Missouri's three-year sponsorship deal for the Tour ended with this year's race. The Tourism Commission had paid $1.5 million each year, with the Missouri Development Finance Board chipping in another $500,000 in public money.

Some Tourism Commission members at the meeting questioned whether the race was worth it, the Springfield News-Leader reported. Marci Bennett, a Democratic member from St. Joseph, said the economic impact wasn't worth the cost for cities to sponsor the beginning or end of a race. The penultimate day of the 2009 race ended in St. Joseph.

"It's just a whole lot of work for 15 minutes," Bennett said, referring to how fast the cyclists speed through towns.

In Springfield, which was on the race route last year but not this year, the city's tourism leader said youth soccer tournaments and a recent professional bull-riding competition drew more overnight visitors.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

rkeller@semissourian.com

388-3642

Pertinent addresses:

Branson, MO

Cape Girardeau, MO

Sedalia, MO

St. Joseph, MO

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