Record-setting attendance at this year’s Charleston Wine + Food Festival translated to more than $15 million in economic impact for the Charleston area, according to the College of Charleston’s Office of Tourism Analysis.
The culinary extravaganza, held from Feb. 28 to March 4, drew 13,780 out-of-town visitors, up from 8,442 in 2017. Executive director Gillian Zettler attributed the 61 percent growth rate to the festival’s programming, which included more than 100 events ranging from indoor cycling classes to vermouth seminars.
“This year's programming was dynamic, progressive and tapped into the creativity of our community at large,” Zettler said. “It was exciting to see people respond positively.”
Locals also attended in greater numbers this year, with 52 percent of the overall crowd of 29,072 people hailing from the Charleston area.
Compared to 2017, out-of-towners this year traveled in slightly larger groups, and were almost twice as likely to stay in an AirBnB or VRBO property. About 1 in every 5 ticket buyers who paid for lodging ended up in a short-term rental.
Per person spending was up by $154 from the previous year, with the College of Charleston estimating each visitor spent approximately $977 on items including festival tickets, food, beverage, lodging and souvenirs.
Once again, the attendee survey showed that Wine + Food ticket buyers are exceptionally wealthy and well-educated. Nearly 40 percent of them have a doctorate or graduate degree, and more than half report a household income in excess of $150,000.
Charleston Wine + Food’s 14th edition is scheduled for March 6 to March 10, 2019.