WRFA’s Jason Sample talks with National Comedy Center Executive Director Journey Gunderson to get more details about attendance at the NCC and the economic impact it’s had on the region.
On Saturday, Nov. 23, the NCC released information on the total number of visitors who’ve come to the facility since it first opened on Aug. 1, 2018. Below is the media release:
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National Comedy Center Draws 66,000 Visitors from 50 States and 18 Countries; Delivers Economic Impact to Western New York
The National Comedy Center ¾ the nation’s official cultural institution and state-of-the-art museum dedicated to comedy as an art form ¾ announced that it has welcomed 66,044 visitors since launch, placing it on track with pre-launch attendance projections and delivering significant economic impact to Western New York. Combined with record-breaking attendance to the Lucille Ball Desi Arnaz Museum, unduplicated museum attendance for this period was 95,502, while reports from Chautauqua County and the City of Jamestown show that county lodging revenue and city sales tax revenue just reached all-time record highs in 2019.
The attendance results conclude a launch year in which the National Comedy Center was named by TIME magazine as one of its “World’s Greatest Places,” cited by People magazine as one of “100 Reasons to Love America,” selected by USA Today as a “Best New Attraction,” called “one of the best museums in the country” by Conde Nast Traveler and rated by museum visitors as a 5 out of 5 on TripAdvisor.
Attendance growth at the National Comedy Center continues at a rapid pace, with August, September and October of 2019 experiencing a 19.75% increase over those same three months in 2018.
The museum attracted visitors from all 50 states and 18 countries, with 88.7% of National Comedy Center visitors coming from outside Chautauqua County.
The Center has welcomed 226 tour groups with an average of 33.3 people per group, including motor coach operators from around the country.
“We are very pleased with our attendance to date, which is fully on track to deliver the economic impact projected. Better yet, 85% of our visitors report being ‘likely to return’,” said Executive Director Journey Gunderson.
“This is all working extremely well and driving a real and lasting impact on our local economy,” said Project Chairman Tom Benson. “We’re already seeing it pay out in sales tax revenue and hotel occupancy, and we are extremely optimistic about Year 2 and beyond.”
City sales tax revenue for Quarters 2, 3 and the projected 4th in 2019, for their respective quarters, was the highest in Jamestown history, with the third quarter reaching an all-time high.
Similarly, short-term lodging revenue for Quarters 1, 2 and 3 in 2019 were the highest respective quarters in Chautauqua County’s history, with the third quarter becoming the biggest quarter ever.
Significant attendance growth for the National Comedy Center is anticipated for Year 2 and Year 3 based on data trends. World-renowned leisure economics project consultant AECOM has indicated that it typically takes a minimum of three years for destination / drive market attractions such as the National Comedy Center in Jamestown to achieve stabilized projected attendance.
“The results for the National Comedy Center’s launch period are quite impressive,” stated Linda Cheu, Vice President at AECOM.
“In our nearly 65 years of experience with thousands of attractions, we’ve found that in markets which do not have a large resident market like that of a large metro area, but rather, rely primarily on tourists — it typically takes a few years of operations before an attraction reaches stabilized attendance,” added Cheu.
Recent research among National Comedy Center visitors indicates that they were drawn to the area for the museum but spent significantly while they were in the area. 59% of non-resident visitors stayed in the area for two or more days, with 77.58% of visitors eating in local restaurants (an average of 2.6 meals). 37.9% of visitors stayed in a hotel, AirBnB or other lodging, staying for an average of 2.18 nights. 35.24% visited other attractions beyond the National Comedy Center and Lucy Desi Museum. On average, each visiting group spend $364.54 on food, lodging, entertainment and attractions while in the area. 85.55% of these visitors indicated that they were likely to visit the National Comedy Center again in the future.
“The National Comedy Center has provided Chautauqua County with a completely unique and highly visible new attraction which is bringing in visitors on a year-round basis,” stated Andrew Nixon, President and CEO, Chautauqua County Visitors Bureau. “The Center is a key factor in the robust occupancy and tourism revenue numbers that Chautauqua County has experienced during 2019. The National Comedy Center serves as a driver of new visits to the region, as well as a positive new experience for those who have been here before. Being named to TIME Magazine’s ‘World’s Greatest Places’ list at the end of the summer season will likely propel the momentum from here.”
The 2019 summer season also marked the second time that the National Comedy Center partnered with Chautauqua Institution for a week of comedy-themed programming. The comedy week was the Institution’s biggest week of the season, within their most highly-attended summer season in a decade.
“Chautauqua Institution was pleased to once again partner with the National Comedy Center on a week that featured a range of highly popular comedy experiences,” stated Michael Hill, President, Chautauqua Institution. “Our weeklong investigation of “What’s Funny?” contributed to an overall successful week at Chautauqua in one of our best seasons ever. It is clear that Chautauquans love comedy!”
Visitor reviews and ratings of the National Comedy Center continue to be among the highest in the tourism and attraction industry. The TripAdvisor rating is holding steady since launch with a rating of 5 out of 5, and Facebook rating is 4.9 out of 5.
The National Comedy Center’s Net Promoter Score® is holding steady with an extremely strong 83 (a score above 50 is considered “excellent” and a score above 70 is considered “world-class”). The Net Promoter Score measures customer satisfaction, loyalty and word-of-mouth referrals among some of the largest brands in the world including Apple, Amazon and Nike. At the 100-day mark, the National Comedy Center’s Net Promoter Score was 82.
Attendance for the Lucy Desi Museum for this period was 47,432 – the most in its 23-year history and a 51% increase over the same previous period. The 2019 Lucille Ball Comedy Festival was the biggest in its 28-year history, with an 18% increase in tickets sold and twice the number of arena-level headlining shows. The total number of admissions for the period, when combining the National Comedy Center, the Lucy Desi Museum and the Lucille Ball Comedy Festival was 136,430. 46% of the museum visits took place during the summer high season.
“It’s clear that visitors not only love the experience but are staying in our hotels, eating in our restaurants, shopping in our retail stores, and visiting other attractions. It’s changing the game,” concluded Executive Director Journey Gunderson. “We look forward to ramping up marketing efforts to bring even more visitors from throughout the country and around the world to learn and experience the story of comedy.”
About the National Comedy Center
The National Comedy Center is the United States’ official cultural institution and museum dedicated to presenting the vital story of comedy and preserving its heritage for future generations, as formally designated by the U.S. Congress in 2019. Opened in August 2018 in Jamestown, New York, the museum complex offers an unprecedented visitor experience using state-of-the-art technology, interactivity and personalization to create the first true 21st Century museum environment.
TIME just named the National Comedy Center one of its “World’s Greatest Places,” ¾ one of only “100 new and newly noteworthy destinations to experience right now” and one of only nine attractions to visit in the United States. Condé Nast Traveler called the National Comedy Center “One of the best museums in the country,” while People magazine recently named it one of “100 Reasons to Love America.” Earlier this year, the National Comedy Center was voted a “Best New Attraction” in the county, ranking #2 out of 20 new attractions by USA Today readers, and chosen as the #1 museum and #1 ticketed attraction in this USA Today poll. Comedy industry authority The Interrobang named the design team second on its list of “Innovators Who Changed Comedy” in 2018. Visitors from all 50 states and nine countries have given the Center a rare 5/5 raring on TripAdvisor, ranking among the highest in the attraction and tourism industry
Based on the vision of Jamestown native Lucille Ball for her hometown to become a destination for comedy, the National Comedy Center showcases comedy’s great minds and unique voices in ways that engage, inspire, educate and entertain. As a non-profit institution, the National Comedy Center was funded by a mix of federal, state and private philanthropic support, including partnerships with I LOVE NEW YORK ™, Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York State’s Empire State Development.
Featuring exclusive collections, world-class exhibits and leading-edge technology, the National Comedy Center presents an unprecedented, behind-the-scenes look at the time-honed creative processes that have elevated comedy entertainment to an art form. Over 50 immersive exhibits within the 37,000-square-foot facility enable visitors to take an interactive journey through comedy history, from early vaudeville to the latest viral memes. Throughout their personalized experience, visitors gain a profound appreciation for comedy icons and innovators, as well as for the tremendous influence of humor on how we think, live and laugh.
Design for the National Comedy Center was led by the most prominent cultural and interactive design firms in the world, whose portfolios collectively include the award-winning 9/11 Memorial Museum, The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, The College Football Hall of Fame, SNL: The Experience, and more.
The National Comedy Center has been embraced by the entertainment industry, with props, costumes and archival material provided by many of the most revered names in comedy. The Comedy Center recently announced a major initiative to preserve Carl Reiner’s personal “Dick Van Dyke Show” script archive. Exhibition partners include the Kelly Carlin and the George Carlin estate, George Shapiro and Jerry Seinfeld, Dan Aykroyd, Alan and Robin Zweibel, Joan Dangerfield, The Lenny Bruce Memorial Foundation, Lily Tomlin and Jane Wagner, The Harold Ramis Family, The Garry Shandling Estate, George Schlatter, Bill Marx and the Harpo Marx Family, the Ernie Kovacs and Edie Adams estate, Desilu Too, NBC Universal, Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros. Corporate Archive, and many more.
The National Comedy Center operates the Lucille Ball Desi Arnaz Museum, which explores the lives, careers and legacy of the “First Couple of Comedy,” and the incredible impact they had on the world.
For over 25 years, the Lucille Ball Comedy Festival in Jamestown has showcased comedy’s rising young comedians and greatest stars, including Jerry Seinfeld, Amy Schumer, Jay Leno, Lily Tomlin, Lewis Black, Trevor Noah, Joan Rivers, Ellen DeGeneres, Jim Gaffigan, Paula Poundstone, Ray Romano, Bob Newhart and The Smothers Brothers, and over one hundred other comedic artists. The 28th annual Lucille Ball Comedy Festival, presented by the National Comedy Center, was held this past, headlined by Sebastian Maniscalco and John Mulaney.