A busy Mardi Gras Galveston 2014

A large crowd watches the Z Krewe 20th Z Processional on The Strand at Mardi Gras Galveston on March 1. Officials with the Galveston Island Convention and Visitors Bureau said compared to last year’s Mardi Gras, hotel occupancy and revenue was up in Galveston and there was an increase of more than 34,000 vehicles over the causeway.

KEVIN M. COX/The Daily News

GALVESTON — If you thought Mardi Gras received a little more attention than usual this year, it wasn’t your imagination.

Officials from the Galveston Island Convention and Visitors Bureau said it helped attract more media coverage than ever this year, resulting in $3.5 million of “PR value” to the island.

Leah Cast, the bureau’s public relations manager, said the value is reflected in the amount of news coverage (unpaid advertising) the island received during the Mardi Gras event.

The bureau helped TV news stations produce 79 spots during the two-week event and two dozen more radio and newspaper stories that were seen as beneficial to the promotion of Mardi Gras.

“It was a huge year for us in terms of support from the media and exposure,” Cast said. ““This was the first year, since I’ve been here, that every single TV and radio station was on this island for the first weekend to cover Mardi Gras.”

Before this year’s event, organizers said they wanted to put an increased focus on the first weekend.

“We attribute the increase in the first weekend sales to our continued efforts to equalize the two weekends,” said Mike Dean, president of Yaga’s Entertainment, the promoter of Mardi Gras. “Rerouting the parades was a huge hit with the consumer, and it showed at the gate and in the hotel rooms.”

Dean declined to provide exact ticket sales for the event, but other indicators pointed to increased attendance this year.

According to the visitors bureau, 238,031 vehicles crossed the causeway during the two weekends of Mardi Gras — that’s 34,679 more vehicles than 2013, a 17 percent increase.

Additionally, hotels reported a 1.6 percent increase in hotel occupancy this year and a 13.2 percent increase in hotel revenue. Officials attributed the increase to higher inventory of hotel rooms compared to last year.

Before the event, the city estimated it would spend $306,167 on direct Mardi Gras costs. More than 40 percent of those expenses, $135,443, came from police department spending.

The city’s private promoters, Yaga’s Entertainment, pays the city a $100,000 fee to help offset the city’s cost.

City officials said a loss on Mardi Gras is expected, but they argue the actual cost of the event is defrayed by the amount of business produced for local establishments, as well as the revenue produced by hotel stays and alcohol sales.

The final expenses and tax revenues will not be officially reported for months, one city official said.

At a glance

Mardi Gras 2014 compared to last year

Causeway crossings: 238,031 vehicles, an increase of 34, 679 vehicles

Hotel occupancy: increase of 1.6 percent

Hotel revenue: increase of 13.2 percent

Media “PR value”: $3.5 million

SOURCE: Galveston Island Convention and Visitors Bureau

Contact reporter John Wayne Ferguson at 409-683-5226 or john.ferguson@galvnews.com.

(11) comments

Allen Flores

The reason that there was such a high media count is because of the media's coverage of drunk driving deaths and the near riot. Mike Dean's version of Mardi Gras brings negative publicity to Galveston and the city loses money tax money at the same time. The hotels would be full without the outdoor events after 9pm that cause all of the negative publicity. The convention bureau should separate the media coverage in positive and negative and then it would show that Mardi Gras media coverage is more bad than good. Dean pays just $100,000 for an event where the security alone is $140,000. The rest of the city's expenses aren't even added in and probably add up to $500,000 while Dean pockets a million plus that could go to the city. What's worse is that the Public Information Act is not enforced so nobody knows what Dean keeps from tickets, sponsors, beer sales, parties and cash. The contract appears to be Brian Maxwell's baby to renew each year for his friend.

Mike Dean

Galveston resident. You always have a lot to say. Why won't you use your name to post? Is it then we would see where your really coming from?

Mary Branum

Not sure what you mean, as I am supporting you. Perhaps you should re-read my comments. Seems you have an issue.

Just clarifying some figures.
There is a $60.000 error in City collected dollars.

I did make an error on the percentage for HOT Tax (not enough coffee).
9% goes to the City, 6% to the state. The State percentage can be reduced by 1% by paying on time by due date.

Mike Dean

It was for "Galveston" Resident not you. I appreciate your support.

Mike Dean

John, Nice article but you left out several key facts. Here is the complete report from the CVB on hotel revenue:

In 2014, Hotel occupancy percentage increased by 1.6% over 2013. ADR increased by 5.7%. This combination resulted in an increase in hotel revenue of $273,407, or 13.2%, for those properties reporting to STR.
In addition, Mardi Gras! Galveston 2014, as compared to a non-event weekend in February (2/7 – 2/8/14), showed an increases of 15.5% in occupancy, 36.6% in ADR and $980,897 (72.3%) in hotel revenue for those properties reporting to STR.

This report only includes 70% of the hotels on the island, No beach houses, No Condos, No short term rental houses, and No bed and breakfasts.

There is no estimation of sales tax in the report but if you use 2.25 persons per car 235,000 cars. Assume each person spends only $15 (when is the last time you went somewhere and spent $15) their injection to the local economy is $7,931,250. The sales tax generated from those low estimations is $654,328 in sales tax generated. The city's share of that number is 1%.

The HOT tax on the nearly $1 million in hotel revenue is $150,000. My company pays $100,000. The city's sales tax share is $65,438.28. The total of all these revenue streams is $315,438.25.

Allen Flores

What are the ticket sales, sponsor sales, and beer sales? Why can't we know this information?

Mary Branum

HOT tax is 15%. City receives 6%, State - 9%.
HOT tax revenue is $60,000 on $1 million.

However, I believe Mardi Gras is good for the island and Mike Dean does a reasonably good job. I do believe more than $100,000 should be paid to the City. At least cover the cost of extra security.
BTW, there were more arrests during spring break last week than at Mardi Gras. The bad news is always enhanced by the media!

Mary Branum

Thanks Mike. I guess it took awhile for the coffee to kick in and get the brain going this morning.

Stephen Maradeo

All of this money. All these tourist. And all we get is Uncle Kracker. A one-hit wonder has-been. With this kind of money and numbers, why can't we get a good show?
C'mon- The Line Up is a good bar band. But not a headliner!

But then again it would mean more money Mike Dean would have to spend more $

"FYI about Uncle Kracker: Authorities had obtained a warrant charging Kracker with a second-degree forcible sex offense. Kracker, whose real name is Matthew Shafer, was released after a district court judge reduced his bond from $5 million to $75,000." -2007 AP News

Brian Cann

You, sir, are wrong. The Line Up is a great bar band!!!

phillip cowart

mardi gras is fine ! beads people & parades...just do away with a city under lockdown... gates,beer &liquor booths, & open concerts ! the city has no rights to sell the downtown area to an open bar & music venue...at the expense and safety of the merchants,patrons,and law enforcement....

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