With an estimated annual economic impact of $50 million, including nearly $18 million in employee income (source: 2011-2012 Patriots Point Intercept Survey Report, College of Charleston Office of Tourism Analysis), Patriots Point Development Authority (PPDA) is a critical cog in the hospitality industry in the Lowcountry.
The agency closed the FY12 ‘books’ on June 30, 2012 with an increase of nearly $500,000 in total operating revenue from the previous year.
“In a year punctuated by fluctuating gas prices and economic uncertainty, we had a very positive year; and that’s something to be extremely proud of,” said Patriots Point Executive Director Mac Burdette. “Not only did we increase our total operating revenue by 5% over last year, but we achieved this while undertaking a $1 million project to return the USS LAFFEY to Patriots Point.”
Paid Attendance, Group Visits Exceed Projections
Paid attendance numbers were up 6% over projections at the conclusion of FY12, with nearly 235,000 guests visiting Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum. Daily attendance does not include overnight camping, educational programs, and event participation, which adds another 60,000 people.
Group Sales numbers were up 20% over FY11 – an increase that can be attributed to an aggressive sales and marketing campaign that included participation in six community events across South Carolina, five travel industry conferences across the nation, active participation in industry professional associations, and sales calls to current and potential customers throughout Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina.
“Our staff is hard at work every day, searching for new and exciting ways to share our nation’s naval history with visitors and this increase in visitation reflects that,” Burdette said. “Our Board is to be commended for granting us the latitude to be creative and aggressive.”
Education Programs Create Brighter Future for SC Students
In keeping with its mission to provide educational opportunities for students across the Lowcountry and throughout South Carolina, Patriots Point remains at the forefront of innovation and education.
The Patriots Point Institute of History, Science and Technology offers students an experience unlike any other, with educational programs that provide standards-based instruction in a setting that is fun and underscores the service and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform. Last year, the Institute welcomed more than 15,000 students for structured education programs that focused on history, science and technology – an increase of 52% over FY11. This significant increase brought Patriots Point more than half-way to its goal of 20,000 students (per year) by 2014 in only one year.
“Our goal is to touch the lives of as many students as possible by providing them with a solid foundation in history, science and technology,” said Burdette, noting that these programs wouldn’t be possible without generous support from the community. “The Patriots Point Institute of History, Science and Technology is a ‘break-even’ endeavor. We are grateful for support we receive in the form of grants, donations, and partnerships with local businesses. Together, we’re providing exciting educational opportunities and we’re helping prepare tomorrow’s leaders for success.”
Nearly 20,000 Campers Sleep Aboard USS YORKTOWN in FY12
Overnight camping aboard the USS YORKTOWN continues to be one of the museum’s greatest revenue sources and one of the top scouting destinations in the country – welcoming nearly 500,000 campers representing all 50 states since its inception in 1980.
During FY12 alone, Patriots Point welcomed nearly 20,000 campers. Efforts are currently underway to increase overnight camper numbers in FY13 through additional marketing, outreach to new target audiences and the implementation of exciting new programs including robotics and the National Flight Academy.
Event Rentals Take Off
During FY12, the number of event rentals at Patriots Point grew by 29% while the revenue from event rentals nearly tripled. Patriots Point took in almost $90,000 in revenue for event rentals during FY11 and nearly $220,000 in revenue for event rentals during FY12 – a 152% increase.
This increase can be attributed to events of a larger scale, an aggressive marketing program in place and ongoing improvements to venues both large and small. More than 250 events are already scheduled through the end of 2012. The PPDA Three-Year Business Plan sets an ambitious goal of 350 events per year by the end of the three-year plan.
In addition to event rentals at Patriots Point, more than 30,000 people attended special events hosted by the museum/in partnership with community organizations over the past year, including the Fourth of July Blast, Ghost Tours, Return of the USS LAFFEY, Girl Scouts’ Centennial Anniversary, An Evening Honoring Ann-Margret, First Federal Starlight Pops, and Piccolo Spoleto.
Patriots Point Gains National Attention
Patriots Point has been attracting national attention for its ‘outside the box’ approach to sporting events. 2011 PGA Champion Keegan Bradley has teed off the Flight Deck of ‘The Fighting Lady;’ All-Star baseball players blasted balls into the Charleston Harbor as part of the 2012 South Atlantic League Home Run Derby hosted by the Charleston River Dogs; and later this year, the nation’s top basketball teams will face-off for the 2012 Carrier Classic.
In addition to the sporting events, Patriots Point has received national exposure through appearances on Ghost Hunters and Fox & Friends.
“Museums across the country are doing everything they can to increase their exposure and national relevance and Patriots Point has been at the forefront,” Burdette said. “By appearing on nationally televised programs, we hope to build an even greater awareness of Patriots Point that will translate into increased ticket sales and revenue.”
Looking to the Future…
Looking into the next fiscal year, Patriots Point will continue building on the success of FY12. The museum will see the initial results and implementation of the first phase of the Museum Experience Master Plan, which will, ultimately, ‘bring the YORKTOWN to life’ through new and exciting technology and hands-on innovation. Moreover, the Master Plan will enable the museum to realize goals set forth by the Business Plan to increase visitation by another 30,000 people over the next three years.
“The USS YORKTOWN is the oldest carrier museum in the country and the ship will turn 70 next year,” Burdette said. “The Museum Master Plan Study, coupled with efforts underway to restore ‘The Fighting Lady,’ will ensure that she remains at the heart of Patriots Point for generations to come.”
Over the next year, PPDA plans to develop the Patriots Point Leadership Institute, create a National Flight Academy with flight simulators and classroom instruction aboard the USS YORKTOWN, and continue progress toward a permanent site for the National Medal of Honor Museum. In addition, the museum will remain focused on building future generations of leaders through expanded overnight camping and education programs.
“The Patriots Point Development Authority Board and our staff are energized and excited for what’s ahead,” Burdette said. “We’re gaining positive momentum and we’re touching lives. I hope that everyone who visits our museum in the year ahead will walk away pleased with their experience and with a greater understanding of, and appreciation for, the men and women who serve our great nation.”