FORT KENT, Maine — Far less was spent by far fewer visitors of the 2014 World Acadian Congress than had been predicted by organizers, according to official figures released by an independent firm.
In its report, NuFocus Strategic Group Ltd. of Dieppe, New Brunswick, said 21,000 outside visitors helped bring in $28.4 million over the three-week event, from Aug. 8 to 24, in the host region of northern Maine, northwest New Brunswick and Temiscouata, Quebec.
In the five years leading up to the 2014 World Acadian Congress, organizers maintained event would bring 55,000 visitors to the area. Combined with the expenditures of organizers, the event was expected to generate about $55 million for the regional economy.
Despite falling short of those numbers, event hosts said they still are pleased with the outcome.
“The congress was definitely a success,” Leo Paul Charest, World Acadian Congress 2014 executive director, said Tuesday.
The differences between the projected and final figures, according to Charest, come down to simple math and how the numbers were crunched in 2009 versus 2014.
In 2009, Charest said, the economic impact was based on what organizers expected would be spent by visitors and residents attending World Acadian Congress events.
Five years later, when the statisticians at NuFocus crunched the numbers from the 2104 World Acadian Congress, according to Charest, only money spent by visitors from outside the region was counted.
The definition of direct economic impact, according to eventsimpact.com, is “a measure of the total amount of additional expenditure within a defined geographical area, which can be directly attributed to staging an event … based on visitor and organizer spending.”
Charest said NuFocus “did not look at the money spent by locals. To [NuFocus] that was not new money and the $28.4 million figure is new money that came into the region because of the [World Acadian] Congress.”
The independent firm also distinguished between area residents and visitors from outside the region when calculating attendance.
When local participation is taken into account, according to Charest, the attendance numbers jump to more than 60,000.
Organizers in part based their original projections on total attendance figures from past World Acadian Congresses, which have been as high as 300,000 at the first such gathering in 1994 that took place in Moncton, New Brunswick, and around 60,000 at the 2009 event in Caraquet, New Brunswick. Official numbers for World Acadian Congress events in 1999 and 2004 are not available.
No matter how the numbers are calculated, however, organizers of the 2104 event say they are happy with the results.
“All of our numbers clearly demonstrate the significance of the [World Acadian Congress] 2014 in our territory and in Acadia as a whole,” said Emilien Nadeau of Degelis, Quebec, president of the organization. “We can be proud of our accomplishments and [its] collective success.”
What is important to look at now, according to George Dumond of Fort Kent, Maine co-chairman of the 2014 event’s board of directors, is a survey showing that three out of every five people who traveled to the region plan to return at some point.
“When we look at how many people said they would come back, that is a really important number,” Dumond said. “We have to look at the World Acadian Congress, not as a one-time event but as the start of something that will bring sustained economic impact.”
Dumond said a core group of about 40 people are working to carry on cross-border collaborations that developed to help improve economic opportunities for the two provinces and the state of Maine.
The first goal, he said, is to convince area residents to stop thinking in terms of three separate and distinct regions.
“We are now one land of Acadia,” Dumond said. “We have to start looking at ways we can start working closer together and collaborating.”
With a shared language, culture, heritage and geography, areas such as manufacturing, forestry, agriculture and tourism all are ripe for collaboration, Dumond said.
“Some of these relationships have already started,” he added.
For example, Dumond said an award-winning cheese maker in Quebec had been looking to break into U.S. markets. Thanks to connections she made at a World Acadian Congress export conference, she was put in contact with the appropriate people regulating cross-border trade.
“Within 20 minutes of those introductions, she was all set,” Dumond said. “We should soon see her cheese in the St. John Valley.”
In the near future, students interested in earning on- and off-road trucking certifications may be able to do so through a shared program between Northern Maine Community College in Presque Isle and the University of New Brunswick branch campus in Edmundston, New Brunswick.
Then there’s the barley grower in Quebec who made contact with a craft beer brewer in Edmundston and a hops grower in Aroostook County. The three now are exploring opportunities to work together, Dumond said.
“There are so many things like this that are done locally that can benefit other local businesses,” Dumond said. “We are really hoping where we once saw the international boundary as a hindrance now we can look at it more as an opportunity. We were not really talking to each other before, but now because of the World Acadian Congress, we are.”