Photo by Clayton Taylor
A new study to determine the economic impact of the annual Bikes, Blues & BBQ rally in Fayetteville was released this week.
According to the study, conducted by the Center of Business and Economics Research at the University of Arkansas and commissioned by the Bikes, Blues & BBQ board, rally attendees from outside Northwest Arkansas spent an average of $402 each during last year’s event. At an estimated 300,000 attendees – with over 170,000 of them from outside the region – that’s an overall economic impact of over $69 million.
Attendance numbers for the rally were not able to be scientifically verified as part of the study, but were instead supplied by Bikes, Blues & BBQ officials who said Monday they used the best guess they could come up with.
“I can tell you with a great deal of certainty concerning the number of people who were here, we don’t know,” said Joe Giles, executive director for Bikes, Blues, & BBQ. “But we’ve got the best number we possibly can, and it’s a very conservative number. We don’t want to be blowing smoke at anybody.”
Giles said the number was calculated by going back to 2005 estimates of 200,000-250,000 attendees, a figure he felt comfortable with based on “hotel/motel capacity figures,” and the opinions of local police and “national moto-journalists” that covered other motorcycle rallies across the country at the time.
Giles said he then compared beverage and merchandise sales from the 2005 rallies with the latest 2013 rally, found a multiplier, applied the multiplier to the attendance estimates, and then decreased it by 15 percent to remain conservative.
According to the study, sales tax revenue generated by 300,000 rally attendees would be just over $2 million, or about two-thirds the amount that the city of Fayetteville collects during an average fall month. Some of that tax money would be spread to the region, but as the study suggests, a majority of the rally activity is concentrated in Fayetteville.
Giles said organizers made attempts to count attendees in 2013 using aerial photography, but those attempts were unsuccessful.
“Our event is not like, say, something at the Washington Mall, where you can take an aerial photograph of that,” he said. “We’re spread out. Half our (attendees) are out on the highways and half are out on Dickson.”
Giles said taking an accurate attendance count of the rally would have required region-wide, simultaneous aerial photography, something that would have been too costly, and likely would have prevented the rally from making charitable contributions.
Instead, Bikes, Blues & BBQ handed out over $100,000 to 24 local charities last year.
Kathy Deck, director of the Center for Business & Economic Research, said the center’s findings on average spending for visitors to Bikes, Blues & BBQ from outside Northwest Arkansas were based on 991 surveys conducted at three locations in Fayetteville during last year’s event.
According to the study, 57 percent of attendees came from outside Northwest Arkansas. The highest number of visitors came from Missouri and Oklahoma, but 30 states were represented in 2013.
On average, visitors spent 3.8 days in Northwest Arkansas, ate 8.9 meals in Fayetteville, and spent almost $106 per day (up from $91 in 2005).
Giles said the new data will help the rally secure national sponsors to help cover costs, and ultimately, to raise more money for local charities. Giles said he also hopes it will help the rally justify itself to locals who don’t enjoy it.
“It helps me to stand up and say, ‘Yes, we are worthwhile, not just for the charitable aspect, but for all the tax revenues that we generate, and all the economic impact that we generate,” he said.