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Counting the Herd. Using Aerial Photography to Estimate Attendance at Open Events

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Open festivals and celebrations play an increasingly important role in the cultural and economic fabric of small towns in Australia. Frequently organizers are called upon to quantify the economic benefits to the host region in order to secure continued financial and political support. Studies of economic impact require visitor expenditure data, usually obtained through visitor surveys, and reliable event attendance figures. However, in open events where ticket counts or equivalent measures are not available researchers are forced to find other ways of estimating attendance. Techniques used in other disciplines can be of value in these circumstances. This article reviews some of the techniques used by ecologists in population estimates and considers their application to the problem of estimating attendance at open events. The use of aerial photography is illustrated using a recent study of an open event in Queensland. The case study shows that this technique can provide an acceptable and cost-effective alternative for event researchers in a predominantly open-air daytime event.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: March 1, 2000

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  • Event Management, an International Journal, intends to meet the research and analytic needs of a rapidly growing profession focused on events. This field has developed in size and impact globally to become a major business with numerous dedicated facilities, and a large-scale generator of tourism. The field encompasses meetings, conventions, festivals, expositions, sport and other special events. Event management is also of considerable importance to government agencies and not-for-profit organizations in a pursuit of a variety of goals, including fund-raising, the fostering of causes, and community development.
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