CAMDEN, Maine — The annual Camden Conference pumped nearly $1.1 million into the local economy last year, according to a report commissioned by the organizers.
The Camden Conference has been held each February in Camden since 1988 to focus on foreign policy issues. The nonprofit organization holds the conferences, with international experts coming to Maine to offer lectures. The Camden Opera House is the main venue for the conference, with the 2015 event streamed live to the Strand Theatre in Rockland and the University of Maine Hutchinson Center in Belfast.
The economic impact study commissioned by the Camden Conference found that during the 2015 conference the nearly 1,000 participants spent an estimated $790,000 on local restaurants, lodging places, shops, travel and entertainment. An additional estimated $300,000 was spent on employment related to the conference, such as extra workers for area businesses to meet the demand during the event, as well as salaried staff for the conference.
This year, the Camden Conference’s directors commissioned an economic impact study to determine how beneficial the event is for businesses and job creation in midcoast Maine. The study was conducted by Dr. Harold Daniel, an associate professor of marketing at the University of Maine Business School, and Dr. Todd Gabe, a professor of economics at the University of Maine. Daniel has served as the director of the University of Maine System’s Center for Tourism Research and Outreach. Gabe specializes in regional and community economic development and teaches courses in development and land-use planning.
Gabe and Daniel’s research demonstrated that attracting people to the midcoast for the annual three-day Camden Conference programs has produced significant economic benefits for the region.
The study concluded that the Camden Conference had an overall economic impact of approximately $850 in local spending per attendee and an additional $330 per attendee for labor hired directly and indirectly for the conference.
An estimated 42 percent of the 2015 conference attendees stayed in hotels or motels, and these visitors spent an average of two nights in the area. Attendees who stayed overnight spent, on average, $99 per person per night. This translates into approximately $80,000 in local lodging expenditures associated with the event.
At the 2015 Camden Conference, 72 percent of attendees were from Maine, 9 percent from Massachusetts and 4 percent from Connecticut. Of the people from Maine attending, 48 percent came from Knox County, 14 percent from Waldo County, 13 percent from Cumberland County, 10 percent from Lincoln County and 7 percent from Hancock County.
“We are proud that this terrific yearly event has grown, and that the conference is attracting people to Maine in the middle of winter when it can be a boon for local businesses,” Peter Imber, president of the Camden Conference, said in a news release from the organization. “We value the support that we receive from area businesses and the community and fully realize that part of our success and the reason why our audiences keep returning every year is because of the warm hospitality and high quality of the experiences visitors have here.”
The Camden Conference is committed to keeping the tickets and events affordable and accessible for anyone who wishes to attend, the organization stated in a news release. In order to accomplish this goal, the conference raises annual contributions and funds from individuals, businesses, foundations and from February’s ticket revenue.
In 2014, the organization generated about $155,000 in revenues from grants and contributions and $154,000 in revenues from the conference.
The topic for the 2016 conference will be “The New Africa” and is scheduled for Feb. 19-21.