Preliminary survey results show film festival drew visitors to Beaufort

emoody@beaufortgazette.comFebruary 19, 2013 

Last weekend's Beaufort International Film Festival was attended by thousands, including some travelers who came to Beaufort specifically for the event, according to preliminary results of a sample survey of festival goers.

Initial results of the survey, which was performed by the Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce, indicate 71 percent of respondents would not have visited Beaufort at this time if it were not for the festival, said Robb Wells, director of the chamber's tourism division.

Additionally, 87 percent said the festival, which ran Wednesday through Saturday, was "influential" or "very influential" in their decision to come to the area, and 80 percent said it was the primary reason they came.

"So does the film festival have a place in Beaufort?" Wells said. "You're doggone right."

The number of survey respondents was not available Tuesday afternoon.

The survey is part of a push by the chamber to track more information about who attends local festivals and events, and why.

Many of the survey participants -- 85 percent -- said they ate at area restaurants, with 25 percent spending $25 to $49 a day in restaurants and another 20 percent spending $50 to $74.

The visitors said they visited the beach, art galleries, antique shops and a few said they went kayaking and played tennis, Wells said.

"What I glean from this research is people need to look at the film festival as more than a local event," Wells said.

Most out-of-towners -- 30 percent -- stayed for four days. Most stayed at hotels or motels, Wells said, and spent an average of $149 a night.

Hotels generally reported slightly higher occupancy rates during the festival than for the same time period last year -- the two largest hotels had a 10 percent increase, Wells said -- although it was not clear how many hotel guests were there for the festival.

CityLoft was 55 percent full Wednesday, but completely booked Thursday, Friday and Saturday, as compared to last year, when only Saturday was full. However, general manager Stephanie Fairbanks said that change could be because Valentine's Day fell on Thursday, and the hotel offered a special.

Holiday Inn of Beaufort was at 70 percent occupancy over the four nights, up 10 percent from the year before. Quality Inn had a similar rate, with 68.5 percent of rooms occupied this year.

There were no Parris Island Marine Corps Depot graduations this year or for the same period last year.

Data from festival organizers was not yet available Tuesday afternoon.

Check back with The Beaufort Gazette and The Island Packet for updates to this story and follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/IPBG_Erin.

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