Exhibit numbers may not be so majestic, some say

by

Published: December 3,2001

JACKSON — According to the results of 962 exit surveys conducted by Majesty of Spain: Royal Collections from the Museo del Prado & Patrimonio Nacional exhibit volunteers from May 15 to Sept. 3 and compiled by DavidGosnell&Others, the exhibit lost $185,000 but provided a $41-million impact to the Jackson economy.

Leland Speed, one of the guarantors of the exhibit, was pleased with the way the exhibit turned out.

“I think it was a very ambitious project,” he said. “Jack Kyle (executive director of the Mississippi Commission for International Cultural Exchange, the exhibit’s organizer) and his people are to be commended for the fine job that they’ve done. I personally and the folks here at our shop (EastGroup Properties) would be very happy to support another program in this series. I think we’ve really got ourselves something that’s really unique and that can be a big help to our community in a lot of different ways-not just economically.”

But economics is the name of the game for at least a few, including Dr. Gail Grass-Fulgham, professor of economics at Jackson State University, Dr. John F. Hurley, JSU chair of the Department of Economics, and Dr. Gerald Lee, professor of economics at Mississippi College. Grass-Fulgham, Hurley and Lee questioned the $41-million impact to the Jackson economy, which translates to slightly more than $3 million in tax revenue.

Grass-Fulgham, Hurley and Lee reviewed surveys and survey results from the Palaces of St. Petersburg exhibit, which took place in 1996 and had a $61 million impact according to Kyle, and from the Majesty of Spain. They also looked over the Mississippi State Tax Commission’s room and restaurant tax revenues for March through August of 1995 versus 1996, and March through August of 2000 versus 2001.

“The bottom line is that the economic impact of $41 million can be questionable, based on the way they (DavidGosnell&Others) conducted their study,” Hurley said.

Hurley first questioned the sample population of those who attended the exhibit. While 962 usable survey instruments were collected by DavidGosnell&Others, that was based on a universe of 318,416 attendees.

“In his case the 962 people representing the sample in the population is less than 1% of the population,” Hurley said. “Less than 1% is not truly representative of how the population would believe. The type of sample you should use should represent your level of confidence. The sample size should have been larger.”

Hurley’s conclusion: the small amount of surveys taken would make the conclusion of DavidGosnell&Others questionable.

“Since the sample was not of sufficient size in my judgement your results about the population would be questionable,” Hurley said.

But David Gosnell, owner of DavidGosnell&Others, said, the methodology was designed to be projected over time and take into account the random nature of the clientele.”

“(We are) very happy with the number that we have,” Gosnell said.

Gosnell used a sample size and confidence interval calculator, and said, “If we executed three times the surveys (about 3,000) our confidence interval would drop from +/- 4.1% to 2.3%. If we executed 6,000 surveys it would go to 1.3%. That’s 600% more surveys for a 3% incremental gain.”

In the Palaces of St. Petersburg Out-Of-State Visitor Study, which was prepared by the Mississippi Department of Economic and Community Development (now the Mississippi Development Authority) Division of Tourism Development Research Unit in January 1997, a total of 6,253 usable daily survey instruments, or 73 per day, were analyzed. Another 1,450 usable weekly forms, or 73 per day, provided out-of-state visitor-related expenditures and other pertinent information.

According to the study, the event was the number-one of its kind in the U.S. in 1996 with 553,896 attendees, including 271,754 Mississippi visitors.

When asked why more surveys were not taken for the Majesty of Spain study, Gosnell said, “The truth is we just really did not have the resources to take advantage of that.”

Gosnell said he used volunteers to help with the study and he did not want to be “overly burdensome” to them.

“It was designed on the front end understanding we’d get 15 or so surveys a day from that time,” Gosnell said.

Gosnell said the Palaces of St. Petersburg study was designed differently from the Majesty of Spain study.

“They had teams of people in the lobby and they did it not necessarily over the period of time we did,” Gosnell said. “(The surveyors) followed up with phone surveys to get more specific information outside of Jackson. Tom Van Hyning (research manager with the Mississippi Development Authority’s Division of Tourism) did an excellent job with that survey.”

Another question brought about by Hurley and Grass-Fulgham after studying the exit survey results and economic impact implications of the Majesty of Spain exhibit had to do with whether or not the person had visited a restaurant that day. That question was then immediately followed by whether or not the person attending the exhibit planned to visit a restaurant if they had not yet. The answer to the first question garnered 339 ‘yes’ answers. The answer to the second question garnered 560 ‘yes’ answers.

“But it seemed to me in the second number he included people who had already visited one (a restaurant),” Hurley said. “That number should be lower than that — significantly lower at least by the 339 I said. If you inflate that, that will make your total impact greater than it

would have been.”

Also, while Kyle said those exhibit attendees polled were adult visitors, total attendance was used as the base for this analysis. According to the economic impact derivations of the Majesty of Spain survey, “total attendance was used as the base for this analysis as school children eat too.

“Using the 93% figure (the percentage that visited a restaurant or planned to out of the total attendance according to survey calculations) from the survey, we were able to determine how many persons ate at least one meal. We then used the length of stay information again to extrapolate additional meals in similar fashion to the lodging analysis. It was assumed three meals per day. This total was then multiplied by a meal average used by Jackson Convention & Visitors Bureau (JCVB).”

Gosnell said, “We did have good attendance from outside of the Jackson area and it was an assumption, but we assumed that these kids had to eat.” The numbers were not factored into any of the overnight numbers though.

But the fact that the JCVB average was used made the resulting meal costs questionable, Lee said. The average meal cost according to the JCVB is $15, but Lee said the figure that should have been used was one-half or one-third of that cost.

In determining the number of people who would stay in a room if the attendees planned an overnight visit in Jackson, DavidGosnell&Others used the number of ‘2.’ Eighty-five percent of exhibit attendees said the range in their party was one to seven.

“I think someone inflated the number of rooms that would have been used,” Hurley said. “Four would have been a reasonable response. The impact on (lodging) would have been less.”

In fact, according to survey numbers taken from the survey results and economic impact implications, 4% of respondents said one person was in their party, 37% said two people were in their party, 15% said three people were in their party and 17% said four people were in their party. That leaves a total of 12%, or 113 respondents, who said there were five to seven people in their party.

“The impact would be off,” Hurley said.

Gosnell said he did not use the
average of seven to determine how many people were in parties.

“The average is more of a figure just to give us some evidence as to the actual distribution,” Gosnell said. “It would h

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