CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WOWK) — The return of the Charleston Sternwheel Regatta was officially a success, generating a total of $31,507,883 in economic impact — the city’s largest economic impact from an event in at least 10 years.
According to the Charleston Regatta Commission and the Charleston Convention and Visitors Bureau, an estimated 210,000 people came to the event and approximately 5,978 jobs were directly supported by the event.
Charleston Mayor Amy Goodwin and the commission say the economic impact is far greater than what the city had anticipated. Prior to the event, organizers were estimating a total of just under $10 million.
“We all believed Regatta’s return would provide significant economic benefit to our local economy and local businesses. But I do not think anyone could have imagined it would have this monumental of an impact for Charleston,” said Goodwin. “Having been Tourism Commissioner for the State of West Virginia, I understand just how important it is to bring local, regional, and out-of-state visitors in for an event of this scale while also providing a variety of unique experiences and attractions. The Charleston Sternwheel Regatta did exactly this – contributing to its success and providing tremendous economic impact for our city.”
The commission says that of the attendees at the event, approximately 71% were local (within 50 miles of the event) and approximately 29% were from out-of-town (traveling from at least 50 miles away from the event). Organizers also say hotel occupancy in the area was estimated to have been at roughly 95% during the Regatta, equaling an approximate total of 15,440 room nights.
The 29% of out-of-town attendees equals approximately 61,000 people. Of those, organizers say approximately 77% came to the Regatta from out-of-state, staying approximately 2.4 days. The Charleston Convention and Visitors Bureau says they used a partnership with Madden Media to use cell phone data to identify the top five states, out-of-state metros, in-state metros, and distance traveled for out-of-state attendees.
“The crowds during the event drastically exceeded our expectations,” said Regatta Commission Member and meteorologist Bryan Hughes. “It was truly incredible to see the number of folks, together, enjoying Regatta. But to take a step back and see how impactful this event was for our community — it’s something for all of us to be proud of and to build on for the future.”
The Regatta returned this past Fourth of July weekend after a 14-year hiatus. The event ran from Thursday, June 30 through Monday, July 4 bringing in several vendors and entertainers with events for the whole family.
According to the commission, the Regatta’s economic impact exceeded any other event in the city over the past 10 years that the Charleston Convention and Visitors Bureau has been using its, calculation model. The bureau says the WVSSAC Girls and Boys Basketball Tournament this year brought in $14.1 million, and recent concerts from Alabama, Morgan Wallen, Shinedown, Luke Bryan, and Brooks & Dunn brought in a combined total of $9.7 million to the city.
“The Charleston Convention and Visitors Bureau has been using this model for calculating economic impact for events for over 10 years, and this year’s Regatta is easily the largest event we have ever modeled, well over twice the impact of any other singular event,” said Tim Brady, Charleston Convention and Visitors Bureau President and CEO.
Goodwin says the Charleston Regatta Commission has already had a planning meeting looking ahead to 2023 and even 2024. The commission has also been taking feedback from community members and event-goers on how to fine-tune and make the next Regatta even better than the 2022 event.
The event was initially launched in 1971 after 13 years old Nelson Jones came up with the idea and presented it to then-Charleston Mayor John Hutchinson. The idea became a reality, and Jones was dubbed the Regatta Founder. Jones passed away in 2010 after battling cancer.