When I interviewed marketing professor V. Kumar, Ph.D., last year about his work helping the Georgia Aquarium in downtown Atlanta overhaul its approach to targeting and retaining customers, I thought that the immediate results — a 10-percent increase in attendance, a 12-percent increase in revenue — were the end of the story. And nothing to sneeze at. But now the aquarium has announced the results of a new economic impact survey finding that, since opening in 2005, it has contributed $1.9 billion to the Georgia economy. According to the study, about 60 percent of the aquarium’s guests — 1.35 million people — come from outside the state; this year they’re projected to spend $52.4 million at the aquarium.
Can you draw a line from Dr. Kumar’s work to this study? I asked Dave Palinski, the aquarium’s senior vice president and chief financial officer.
Do you think there’s a connection between the aquarium’s revised customer-marketing efforts and its healthy economic impact? I think the benefit of this work got the aquarium to think differently and taught us the importance of data-driven decision making as we moved into the future and as we continue to look into the future today.
Why did the Georgia Aquarium want to calculate its economic impact? The aquarium has known that it has had a major impact on the area — Pemberton Place (the plaza where the aquarium is located with World of Coca-Cola, etc.), city of Atlanta, and the state of Georgia – but wanted to have an independent party verify and quantify. The aquarium has done a lot of good things that we now want the community to know about, so we can continue to prosper and continue to help this area. We will be using this study to communicate and receive support from the community and for legislative support for both state and local issues.
Were you surprised at the aquarium’s total economic impact? We were not entirely surprised. We expected some very large and favorable numbers, but it was refreshing that it was validated by a third party.