Columbia Arts Council Ties AEP5 to Tourism Initiative

By Carol White, Director of Operations –

City of ColumbiaArts & Economic Prosperity 5(AEP5) national economic impact study reports that the City of Columbia generates $7.7 million in total economic activity. This spending—$1.3 million by nonprofit arts and cultural organizations and an additional $6.4 million in event-related spending by their audiences—was reported by seven local organizations.

Columbia recently underwent a year-long study with Franklin-based marketing firm ChandlerThinks to determine how to better promote the city’s tourism market. The study found that the downtown Columbia square, the arts and local culture were the driving forces bringing tourists to the city. Recently a group of writers from Florida, Texas and Georgia visited Columbia to tour the arts district and the downtown square to meet business owners, eat at local restaurants and discover what gives Mule Town its own identity.

THe AEP5 study shows that as a result of attending a cultural event, attendees often eat dinner in local restaurants, pay for parking, buy gifts and souvenirs, and pay a babysitter. What’s more, attendees from out of town often stay overnight in local lodgings. In City of Columbia, these dollars support 213 full-time equivalent jobs, which generates $3.7 million in household income to local residents and delivers $810,000 in local and state government revenue.

“The thriving arts culture in Columbia and the City’s vision that led to the development of an Arts District were important factors in my decision and desire to accept the tourism position with the City of Columbia,” stated Tourism & Marketing Director Kellye Murphy. “It’s clear that the arts play a major role in Columbia’s growing tourism product, in tandem with its rich history, beautiful downtown, and the Duck River.”

City of Columbia Arts Council collected 534 surveys from audiences attending events at the seven participating local nonprofit arts and cultural organizations, and coordinated financial and program data collection from the organizations.

The study reported that there were 282,326 nonprofit arts and culture attendees in City of Columbia in 2015, 81 percent of who were residents. Of the nonresident survey respondents, 69 percent indicated that the primary purpose of their visit to the County was “specifically to attend this arts/cultural event.” Nonresident attendees spent an average of 94 percent more per person than local attendees ($36.92 vs. $19.05) as a result of their attendance to cultural events.

The study shows that arts and culture help retain local dollars: 48 percent of local resident attendees said they would have “traveled to a different community to attend a similar cultural event” if the event was not taking place locally.

During 2015, 402 volunteers donated a total of 18,721 hours to the County’s seven participating nonprofit arts and cultural organizations. This represents a donation of time with an estimated aggregate value of $441,067.