How many tourists visit the SouthCoast, and how much do they spend when they get here? Why do they come, and what do they do?

Those were some of the questions the Charlton College of Business at UMass Dartmouth attempted to answer while conducting a survey of tourists last summer in New Bedford and Fall River.

Dr. John Williams, Dean of the College of Business, spoke this week on Townsquare Sunday about the survey and why it was done.

Dr. Williams said the college received a grant from One SouthCoast Chamber to conduct the survey in order to learn more about the people who visit.

"We did bring in a crew of professional surveyors to talk with people, and they we focused on two venues, the New Bedford Folk Festival downtown and four events at the Narrows Center for Performing Arts in Fall River," Williams said. "We really wanted to know what visitors' loyalty was to the area."

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Dr. Williams said the findings were somewhat incredible: 74 percent of the people surveyed at the Narrows were repeat visitors, and 72 percent of those surveyed at the Folk Festival were also repeat visitors.

"In the Folk Festival, for instance, 63 percent of the visitors stayed in a hotel, that's tremendous added revenue. Sixty-nine percent went dining," he said. "That's what we're really concerned with, what are the dollars they bring in, what are the activities they choose, and what do they really want from the area?"

The New Bedford Folk Festival recently announced it was ending its 25-year run. It will be replaced by a one-day music festival, New Bedford Roots and Branches, with free performances at Wing's Court and four indoor venues in the downtown.

Dr. Williams said the Folk Festival was a "true positive" for New Bedford and its demise will hurt tourism. He said, however, data like what has been gathered by his team can help local businesses recover from pitfalls and keep growing at the same time.

The complete interview with Dr. Williams contains much more information:

Townsquare Sunday is a weekly public affairs program heard Sundays at 6 a.m. and 11 a.m. on WBSM.

The program highlights organizations and individuals striving to make the SouthCoast a better place to live and work.

If you would like your organization featured on Townsquare Sunday, please e-mail the host at

Behind the Scenes at Edaville in Carver, Massachusetts

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