Study Shows 50th Waterfowl Festival Will Be Important Part of Recovery

As the country, the state of Maryland and the Eastern Shore look forward to a smoother 2021, Waterfowl is gearing up to be a strong force in our region’s economic recovery. The newly released “Economic & Cultural Impact of the 2019 Waterfowl Festival”, developed from data collected at the 2019 event, shows that Festival visitors are especially loyal guests who fueled $2.6 million in economic impact for Talbot County. This is a remarkable result for a once-a-year event of its size. If the past is prologue and with vaccines beginning to roll out, the report findings offer insights into what the region is likely to experience in November 2021 — a 50th Waterfowl Festival that is truly a once-in-a-century celebration and economic boon for the county.

“Waterfowl Chesapeake commissioned this study to showcase the cultural and economic value of the Waterfowl Festival. We wanted to clearly demonstrate what this event means for our community and our region,” explains Executive Director, Margaret Enloe. “These studies are exhaustive and most non-profits don’t pursue them due to costs. So we are incredibly grateful that the Maryland Heritage Areas Authority recognized the importance of this work and provided grant funding needed to accomplish it. The quantitative and qualitative evidence here backs up what we knew in our hearts — that our celebration of wildlife art, sporting heritage and the Eastern Shore lifestyle is woven into the fabric of our region and our state.”

The 2019 study of the three-day event revealed the Festival’s economic and cultural impact on the Town of Easton, Talbot County and beyond. More than 15,000 people are estimated to have attended the last Waterfowl Festival.  Of those people, the more than 6,000 visitors who travelled to the Shore spent nearly $3 million on various goods and services in Talbot County.  Just over one-third of their spending was on retail shopping, both at the Festival venues and at local businesses – an amount that is three times the industry average. The Festival itself adds half a million dollars in operating monies to the economy, just to create the annual event.

The study was conducted by Rockport Analytics, an independent firm based in Annapolis, MD.  Rockport has a long-standing track record of creating credible assessments of economic impact for leading organizations in both the private and public sectors. Their analysts have conducted a multitude of event and attraction impacts including those for high profile events like the Super Bowl, the Pocono 500, and the Masters.

Click here to download Graphic Summary of Report

Click here to download a PDF of the Full Report

While understanding the economic figures is important, Waterfowl Festival’s deeply rooted history means that it also has an impact on quality of life and culture. To explore these connections, Rockport’s experts also conducted surveys of residents to gain a clearer picture of the Festival’s connection to the Talbot County community.  Survey results show that most residents:

  • Recognize the crucial role the event plays in keeping traditions alive and that 82% believe the Waterfowl Festival is “very important or essential” to celebrating and showcasing the local culture and heritage; 

  • Acknowledge the Festival’s ability to bring people together with 63% of resident attendees believing that it is “very important or essential” to uniting the community toward a common goal; and,

  • Believe that the Waterfowl Festival is “very important or essential” to igniting a sense of community pride. 

“Given everything we learned from this report and people’s pent-up eagerness to begin to enjoy the company of their friends and family,” says Festival President Kevin Greaney, “we believe that the 50th Festival in November 2021 will be an integral part of bolstering our local economy – perhaps even more than in past years since we suspect we’ll have more visitors to Talbot County than ever!”

Other findings from the 2019 study:

  • The Waterfowl Festival itself infuses $496,000 in event-related operating expenses by vendors, exhibitors and event organizers into the Talbot County economy.
  • Of the more than 15,120 attendees, 45% visited specifically for the Festival and came from more than 50 miles away; each visitor spent slightly more than $400 on average during their trip.
  • Waterfowl visitors average retail spend of $138 is more than twice the spend of visitors to the County at other times.
  • Visitors stayed an average of 2.1 nights with 41% visiting Easton for the day, while the remaining 59% stayed overnight in other hotels, rentals or with friends in the region.
  • Festival-initiated activity supported a total of 48 jobs (predominantly in hospitality), which resulted in $1.6 million in wages paid in Talbot County. A large proportion of these wages ripple through the economy as workers spend their income on various goods and services throughout the local area.
  • Talbot County retained about 74 cents of every dollar spent locally by Festival visitors and organizers.
  • The Waterfowl Festival generated enough state & local tax revenues to pay the salaries of 9 Talbot County teachers or educate 32 Talbot County public school students.
  • About 14 cents of every dollar spent by Festival visitors was retained as state or local tax revenue.
  • Visitor spending associated with the Festival generated an estimated $787,000 in tax receipts, including $357,000 in federal receipts and $429,000 at state and local levels.
  • The event contributed roughly $29,000 in hotel taxes and nearly $6,000 in state and local taxes and fees.

“Net Promoter Scores” (NPS) are critical measurements for understanding customer loyalty and satisfaction. On a scale of 100, scores in the 60s are considered very good for an event. Festival’s NPS scores were well above this threshold and actually were excellent across its variety of audiences.

  • Those who visited to “[enjoy] the cultural heritage & traditions of the Chesapeake Bay & Maryland’s Eastern Shore” and “because attending is a family tradition” both had NPS scores of 86.
  • Repeat Visitors to Talbot County have an NPS of 83. First-time visitors to Talbot County had slightly higher NPS scores than repeat visitors at 86 vs 83 respectively.
  • Of visitors who stayed overnight, those staying in Easton had one of the highest NPS scores at 90.
  • The overall NPS for Talbot County Residents is 62 and the score for visitors is 74.

Rockport Analytics used the IMPLAN (or “impact analysis for planning”) modeling system that draws from the most extensive economic database available while allowing for the input of detailed and relevant local data, thereby generating a detailed analysis of Festival related spending and its local economic benefits. The IMPLAN software is the industry standard that has been used by government agencies, academia, and leading researchers for more than 40 years to carry out economic impact studies.

“Over our history, Waterfowl has invested nearly $4 million in habitat conservation, more than $1.2 million in education, and more than $26,000 in wildlife research initiatives,” says Enloe. “In 2020 we worked to support our community, our artists and Waterfowl stakeholders with new programming like CommUNITY Day, which offered local residents a way to be together without coming together. We also dove into the virtual world, creating the Festival’s first Virtual Art gallery, a program that continues to successfully connect art lovers to the finest of waterfowl and wildlife artists. As we begin 2021, we can’t wait for the 50th Festival, when our guests and devoted friends can once again flock to Easton to celebrate our shared love for the fall and the bird life it brings to the Chesapeake Bay region.”

Click here to download the PDF of the Full Report

Study Data and Graphics Compiled by:

Rockport Analytics
Annapolis, MD
West Chester, PA
phone: (866) 481-9877