The city of Honolulu—and in fact the entire tourism industry of Hawaii—felt that it had more or less dodged a bullet in March when the National Football League (NFL) announced that it was not going to relocate the annual Pro Bowl game from the Aloha State in 2014. The internationally televised game would return to Aloha Stadium, at least for another season.
“This is really important to the tourism industry and indeed the entire community in Honolulu, because it is not just an event that produces US$25 million to $30 million in direct revenue in tourist spending, but it is something that has been part of the fabric of the community for 30 years now,” said Michael Story, the Hawaii Tourism Authority’s (HTA) sports tourism brand manager.
Story says that while Hawaii pays the NFL $4 million a year for the rights to host the Pro Bowl and received $3 million in tax revenues from what the tourists and the visiting news media spent there during Pro Bowl week, the destination gets what the HTA estimates at as $200 million worth of TV, Internet and print media exposure from coverage of the event.
“And then there is the incalculable value you get when NFL players visit children’s hospitals in our community, and the players and the cheerleaders hold workshops for our local youngsters—that’s something of huge value,” Story said.
One reason the NFL had been talking about leaving Hawaii is that as football games go, the Pro Bowl is not exactly an advertising revenue cash cow for the league—it draws lower TV ratings than regular-season games. That is in part because although the players enjoy the limelight of being selected for the Pro Bowl, as the Associated Press wrote, they tend “to hit like they were in a pillow fight instead of a football game.” The players are incentivized not to risk being hurt, which could potentially end their individual, multimillion-dollar careers in a game that does not count against any championship.
That situation would not, of course, be any different if the location of the game was changed.
The HTA is making every effort to keep the game permanently and, as Story says, is in “negotiations with the NFL to see what makes the most sense for both sides of the partnership in our ongoing relationship with the NFL.”
The Pro Bowl discussion and Hawaii’s efforts to keep it for years to come serves to underscore just how important special events that draw national and international participation and media coverage are to the communities in which they occur. For example, when New Orleans hosted the 2013 Super Bowl, there was a 43 percent increase in hotel occupancy and an almost 200 percent increase in average daily rate (ADR) over the previous year. For the 2012 Super Bowl, Indianapolis hotels saw a 137 percent increase in occupancy and a 335 percent increase in ADR. And in 2008, Phoenix saw more than 91,000 out-of-state visitors who spent $218 million locally when it played host to the Super Bowl.
No one is in a better position to have an insider’s perspective than Tracy Halliwell, director of business tourism and major events for London and Partners. The 2012 London Olympic Games are currently the biggest revenue-producing event for a destination’s economy in world history, having added £10 billion (the equivalent of $15.7 billion) to the British economy by most estimates.
Halliwell, who was a key player in the team that conducted four years of preparation leading up to the 2012 Olympics, says a major focus of that preparation was crafting plans to make the London Olympics an event with a permanent impact on the tourism economy going forward.
“There is no question that it has been,” she said. “Before the Olympics, we had about 87,000 hotel rooms in London, and now we have about 105,000, with still another 6,000 under construction as we speak. By 2015, we will have about 120,000 hotel rooms in London, and that would not have happened without the impetus provided by the Olympics.”
She says the 2012 Olympics provided a stimulus for both private investors and government to come forth with the requisite money to make transportation and communications infrastructure capital investments that have allowed London to land major future events such as the 2017 IAAF World Championships in Athletics.
“The Olympics more or less made us raise the bar for ourselves and think outside the box as a community,” Halliwell said.
That is exactly how Irene Caban—president of Savvy Events and Entertainment, a Tampa (Florida) DMC—felt about the 2012 Republican National Convention (RNC), which brought an estimated $153 million to Tampa’s local economy.
“[It was] something that made us change our game not only as meeting professionals and participants in the tourism industry, but as a community as a whole,” said Caban, a past president of the MPI Tampa Bay Chapter. “Not only did we have to up our game to meet the requirements of events at an RNC level, but the community had to up the ante, with renovations and improvements and upgrades of the infrastructure. Both of those efforts will serve us well going forward.”
—By Rowland Stiteler
(Photo via Flickr: Department of Defense/U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Michael R. Holzworth/Creative Commons.)