May 20, 2014 10:40:21 AM
Several overlapping events during this year's Pilgrimage season helped increase ticket sales and hotel stays over the 16-day period, Columbus-Lowndes Convention and Visitors Bureau Executive Director Nancy Carpenter said.
Carpenter reported about $65,000 in cumulative ticket sales from Antebellum home tours, Tales from the Crypt, Catfish in the Alley and the Mayor's Unity Picnic, among many other events held.
Data from Smith Travel Research, which the CVB contracts with to track hotel occupancy rates for 935 hotel rooms in the city, indicates that an average of 630, or 67.4 percent, of those rooms were booked each night from March 28 to April 12. Occupancy eclipsed 85 percent during the last two weekends of Pilgrimage. That's an improvement over a 56.7 percent average during that same time frame in 2013. The busiest day came on April 4 when 87.3 percent, or 816 of the 935 hotel rooms, were booked.
The 2013 Pilgrimage ran from March 31 through April 13.
Excluding the 45,000 who attended the free Wings Over Columbus air show, 9,129 people from 37 states and eight countries attended an event held during Pilgrimage, Carpenter said. The Dispatch reported more than 10,000 participated in 2013.
Home tours totaled 2,612 visitors this year, while 1,250 people went to the Mayor's Unity Picnic. Tales from the Crypt's visitor count was 1,669, while 900 people toured Columbus on the CVB's Double Decker bus. Catfish in the Alley hosted 750 guests despite poor weather, while the inaugural Half-Marathon and 5K had 318 participants. The Pilgrimage kickoff party drew 450 people, the Artisan's Alley and book signing had 390 participants and the Girlchoir kitchen tour had 250. A reported 255 people rode carriage rides.
Carpenter said the breadth of events available helped cater to more interests, and she was pleased to see an uptick in hotel occupancy.
"I think it's very good for the city and the county when we have multiple events layered on top of each other because you have some people who really look forward to Tales from the Crypt and you have some in town for shopping and cuisine and some that came because they're preservationists and they're here to tour historic properties," Carpenter said. "It's going to be seldom that you find a person that comes to town that wants to do everything that's offered, but at least you have those events that are most important to them based on what their interests are."
Cafe on Main owner Peggy Strauss said while her business didn't see a big difference in general traffic during Pilgrimage, she had one reservation for a 53-person tour group and several others with 30 people, which provided a revenue boost.
"The funny thing is the first week, we didn't see much of an impact," Strauss said. "The second week is when we had more business."
Nathan Gregory covers city and county government for The Dispatch.
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