Arts & Entertainment, Economic Development, and Travel & Tourism

Economic growth sprouts at Tulip Time

Impact report says festival yielded $48M in visitor spending, up from $12M in 2015.

November 2, 2018
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2018 Tulip Time
The average visitor spent 2.67 days at the festival, with about 64 percent traveling from more than 20 minutes away. Courtesy Tulip Time Archives

More people are making the trek to Holland to see the springtime tulips, according to an economic report.

The 2018 Tulip Time economic impact report, conducted in partnership with Hope College’s Frost Research Center, shows the nine-day festival that was held from May 5-13 yielded $48 million in economic impact, which resulted from hotel stays, restaurant visits, transportation and entertainment.

That is an increase from $12 million in visitor spending in 2015 when Anderson Economic Group conducted the first economic impact study. The festival in 2015 was eight days; a ninth day was added in 2016.

More than 5 million tulips were on display during the festival this year, according to Darlene Kuipers, development and marketing director for Tulip Time. Tulips lined 6 miles of city streets, including Eighth Street downtown, city parks, Windmill Island Gardens, and private tulip attractions were featured at Nelis’ Dutch Village and Veldheer Tulip Gardens.

An estimated 500,000 national and international visitors attended the festival this year, well above the more than 180,000 who attended the festival in 2015.

The majority of the visitors who attended the festival in 2018 were white, 80 percent. The second largest ethnic group was Asian, 11 percent.

Although Tulip Time celebrates the city of Holland’s Dutch heritage, Tim Vreeman, chair for the Tulip Time board of directors, said the board wanted a diverse festival.

“The Indian population, in particular, comes with multiple generations,” he said. “We recognized that they are coming to (the festival), and we wanted to make sure we are including them and offering hospitality to them and that they know how to navigate the festival well. So, we diversified our board. We made sure our food offerings (appealed to them) and the people they see participating in the festival is what spoke to the Indian population.”

The average visitor spent 2.67 days at the festival, with about 64 percent of visitors traveling from more than 20 minutes away. Overnight visitors spent an average of $241.44 per person, local and nonlocal day-trip visitors spent $44.43 and $78.33, respectively.

Beth Blanton, vice president of engagement for Lakeshore Advantage, said the Courtyard by Marriott Downtown Holland, which was built in 2016, gave a larger capacity to Holland visitors who wanted to go to the festival and stay downtown.

“Between the Marriott, City View, Haworth, we have significantly increased the number of rooms, so that those who wanted to literally be right downtown were able to walk and experience it,” she said. “Marriott gives us the opportunity to grow that aspect of it.”

Some of the Tulip Time events include parades, Dutch dances, an artisan market, fireworks, a carnival, tulip city tours and ticketed shows. According to the report, 73 percent of visitors were above pre-retirement age, with 30 percent between the ages of 18 and 35. In 2015, the average age of attendees was 51 years old.

Blanton said she hopes the festival’s impact will be far-reaching and will encourage young people to come back to the city of Holland.

“A festival of this size and scope has increased the awareness that Holland is a great place to live and work,” she said. “It is not just a retirement community. So, this is a festival that has placed Holland on the map and makes people think about it, in terms of not just a place to visit but a place to have a great quality of life, and we know that Tulip Time festival is a great time to attract them and keep them here so they can enter the workforce.”

Kuipers said the festival’s goal is to conduct a study every three to five years. Next year, Tulip Time will be celebrating its 90th anniversary, with the festival scheduled May 4-12.

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