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How Many Visitors for Richmond 2015?

The residents of the city of Richmond and surrounding communities are eagerly awaiting the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) Road World Championships to be held in Richmond in September - referred to locally as “Richmond 2015”.  Likewise, cycling enthusiasts around the country are excited about the championships returning to the United States for the first time in almost 30 years.

Businesses in the region, including hotels, restaurants, shops, and taxi drivers are hoping that the influx of athletes, race officials, and visitors to Richmond 2015 will mean a boon for businesses.  According to a study completed by Chmura Economics & Analytics, “The World Championships is a 9-day event from which Richmond can expect to draw more than 450,000 on-site spectators over the course of the nine-day event from around the United States and the world.”[1]

The number “450,000” has been quoted frequently by many media outlets. While some quoted it properly as 450,000 spectators, unfortunately, there are some mischaracterizations that warrant clarification.

First, the number 450,000 refers to the total number of spectators, not visitors. Some social media and general public comments have included phrases such as “450,000 visitors are expected in Richmond,”[2] giving the impression that there will be 450,000 individuals visiting the Richmond region during the event.

However, “spectators” are defined as people watching races on-site (and it includes some double counting). According to the Richmond 2015 website, there are a dozen races over 9 days. If an individual attends multiple races, he or she would be counted multiple times.  In fact, the Chmura report assumed the average individual will watch over 4 races during the 9-day event. Obviously, visitors travelling to Richmond for the race may attend more races, while casual fans from the region may only watch a couple of them.

Another misconception by the general public is to assume that all spectators are visitors from outside the region. For example, a report from Airbnb.com in Richmond quoted one local real estate agent as saying, “450,000 visitors are expected in Richmond. There’s not enough hotels to house those people.”[3]  If hotel operators expect that there will be 450,000 people needing lodging, they will be disappointed. That is because the 450,000 spectators include local residents in the Richmond region, as well as a large number of people living outside Richmond that will make a day trip to the region. The overnight visitors are estimated to total over 50,000. Adding athletes and their support staff, journalists, and officials, the overnight visitors are estimated to be more than 60,000.

With about 18,000 hotel rooms in the Richmond region,[4] even the estimated fifty to sixty thousand overnight visitors seem to be exceeding the region’s capacity. Is it really? The answer is no. That is because many visitors will share rooms, reducing the demand for hotel rooms. Furthermore, many visitors will not stay for all nine days. Some will come for the entire event and some will come for a few days while many may only come for a weekend.  Additionally, some overnight visitors may choose to stay with families and friends in the region or rent rooms or houses directly from area residents. In the end, the regional hotels rooms may be sufficient after all.  

 

[1] Source: http://richmond2015.com/about/economic-impact/

[2] For an example, please see http://www.nbc12.com/story/20979198/richmond-2015-helping-businesses-prepare-for-450000-race-fans

[3] For an example, please see http://wtvr.com/2015/05/18/airbnb-not-legal-in-city-of-richmond/

[4] Source: http://www.visitrichmondva.com/where-to-stay/

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