Sea Briefs is a report on the results of the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium.
Editor: Valerie Winn
Front page kayaking photo: Leah Bray
This newsletter is available in PDF
MASGC supports applied, interdisciplinary marine science research, education and outreach efforts to foster the sustainable development and management of the Mississippi and Alabama coasts and nearshore ecosystems of the Gulf of Mexico
The Wild Wing River and Nature Festival in Mississippi and the Alabama Coastal Birdfest have not only involved nature lovers and environmentalists on a new level of aesthetic interaction, recent studies have shown that these “bookend” events also have had positive impacts in their communities. In determining this finding with funding from the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium (MASGC), Dr. Semoon Chang, professor of economics at the University of South Alabama in Mobile, developed a survey for participants of the 2007 Wild Wing event, the fifth of its kind, held in and around the Pascagoula River Corridor from April 13-22 in 2007 and the 4th AnnualAlabama Coastal Birdfest, held Oct. 18-21 in areas of Baldwin and Mobile counties.
“Eco-tours such as the Wild Wing Festival in coastal Mississippi (Jackson and George counties) and the Alabama Coastal Birdfest in south Alabama are not large events such as music gatherings featuring Kenny Rogers or Jimmy Buffet. However, these nature-based festivals generate hundreds of thousands of dollars for the local economy as the two festivals did during 2007,” said Chang. “More importantly, these festivals contribute toward a greater understanding of the existence of valuable natural resources in the coastal communities in the two states.”
In Mississippi, participants can take part in the Wild Wing River and Nature Festival in different ways that include a sunset dinner cruise on the Escatawpa River, a Davis Bayou kayaking tour or a Creole Bayou heritage tour, to name a few.
In Alabama, festival goers may participate in guided trips to such destinations as Fort Morgan and the Hummer/Bird Study banding site, Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge, Bayou La Batre and Forever Wild Grand Bay Savanna.
Similar in their appeal to highly educated nature lovers, the majority of which hold bachelor’s degrees, both festivals drew predominant age groups of 51-65 and included both paid and free events led by expert guides and presenters.
Other variables indicated that the majority of participants had household incomes of $50,000 or more. The scope of each festival varied: Wild Wing featured 12 paid events over its 10-day period with total capacity of 177, of which 85 tickets were sold to 75 persons. The four-day Birdfest had 20 paid events with 304 paid participants. In addition, there was one free event.
In his research, Chang also considered the distance participants had to travel and the availability of lodging in both states. Festival expenditures and budgets were also major factors.
According to Chang’s study, the total direct economic impact of out-of-town participants to paid events of Birdfest on the local economy was $49,070. Expenditures made by local participants were not included because they represented transfer expenditures, meaning that they could have been spent locally even without the Birdfest.
“The total direct expenditures impact of Birdfest was $90,682,” said Chang. “The total expenditures impact of the Birdfest, which includes the multiplier effect, is $150,895. These expenditures created direct and indirect employment in the area that is equivalent to five jobs.”
For Wild Wing, the total direct economic impact of out-of-town participants to paid events on the local economy was $44,066. Total operating budget was $56,285. “The total direct expenditures impact of Wild Wing was $103,605,” said Chang, adding that total economic impact was obtained by multiplying direct impact by multipliers that were developed specifically for Jackson County, Mississippi. Total expenditures impact of Wild Wing was $142,664 which created direct and indirect employment in the area that was equivalent to seven jobs during the festival period.
information obtained through Chang’s surveys included
suggestions that festival participants gave to organizers and
encompasses areas such as the quality of the guides and presenters as
well as the nature sites.
Overall the impacts were positive.
“Collaborators hosting the Wild Wing River and Nature Festival understand the potential economic and community benefits of nature-based tourism and the importance of an annual event from which to build a regional marketing base,” said Chang. “South Mississippi is an undiscovered market for major nature-tourism events and the Institute of Compatible Development along with partners is delighted to selectively market Mississippi’s undiscovered gem, the Pascagoula River.”The continued success of both events seems certain.
“The bottom line is that eco-tourism requires efforts of many environment-conscientious volunteers in the community,” said Chang. “At the very least, perception is that the more such volunteers a community has, the higher the community’s quality of life is. Coastal Mississippi and Alabama seem to have many such volunteers.”