A Southeast Minnesota bird festival that started in 2003 at the Houston Nature Center has quickly grown into an international event as the only full-weekend, all-owl festival in North America.The International Festival of Owls at Houston, MN, attracts the interests of wildlife viewers while providing tourism benefits to the community, such as increased exposure and revenue. To maximize benefits and enhance events, organizers need to continually assess and evaluate their event and its market. In 2008, ERC helped the Houston Nature Center obtain a UM Community Assistantship Program intern through the UM Tourism Center to survey festival attendees and compile a visitor profile measuring attendees’ experiences and expenditures at the 6th Annual International Festival of Owls.
- Houston Nature Center
- Friends of the Houston Nature Center
- Houston Hoedown Days
- Houston Area Chamber of Commerce
- UM Center for Urban & Regional Affairs (CURA)
- UM Tourism Center
- Ingrid E. Schneider, UM Professor, Tourism Center & Forest Resources
- Andrea Schuweiler, UM graduate student in Forest Resources
The research assistant and trained volunteers used a systematic intercept sample with sampling throughout events and across activities. An on-site questionnaire administered to 115 respondents gathered data about demographics, motivations and expenditures.
Andrea Schuweiler prepared a 36-page final project report and designed a powerpoint presentation titled,“2008 Profile of International Festival of Owls Attendees.” In addition to typical demographics, the profile measured levels of birding experience, what aspects of the festival the respondents enjoyed most, what marketing was used, and gathered visitor suggestions for improving the programs. 70.4% of the respondents were non-residents, showing that the festival effectively attracts visitors to the area and is a viable tourism attraction for Southeast Minnesota. The report included marketing and programming recommendations to build awareness and attendance and bolster the festival experience. Since the 2008 study, attendance has increased five times with nearly 2,000 visitors in 2014.
$500 contribution towards CAP student wages and travel
- ~$6,000 - CURA Community Assistantship Program graduate internship
- $500 match - Houston Hoedown Days
- $500 match - Houston Area Chamber of Commerce