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Visit Loudoun survey shows a way forward for Epicurience

Doc Scantlin and the Palmettos of Washington, D.C. perform at Oatlands Plantation in Leesburg during their Roaring 20s dinner and speakeasy on Aug. 31. -Times-Mirror/Jonathan Taylor
Visit Loudoun, in preparation for this year's Epicurience event, a wine and culinary festival, recently decided to conduct a third-party led survey to identify strengths and weaknesses of its 2013 iteration.

The survey showed that for the most part people loved the food and wine, but didn't like the heat, the ticketing process or parking.

There are plans to bring down prices, by offering a tiered approach to ticketing that will incentivize early ticket sales by offering cheaper prices months before the event and getting more expensive as the event draws near.

Berkely Young of Young Strategies Inc. conducted the study, which had 332 respondents. Overall responses from the survey painted a positive picture of the event with more than 94 percent saying they would likely return this year.

Last year's Epicurience event was held at Morven Park on a hot stretch of days in late August and early September.

The weather, Visit Louduon admits, will be a hurdle for the organization as it will change year to year and is hard to predict.

Brian Jenkins, director of business strategy and research at Visit Loudoun, says it's important to contract surveys so data is not affected by Visit Loudoun itself.

In recent years, analytics and research have led much of the organizational decision-making at Visit Loudoun.

The idea to have the festival came from research Visit Loudoun did on times of year when hotel vacancies were high.

Epicurience is slotted into the Labor Day weekend because it's generally when hotel stays begin to wain in the county.

The survey indicated that more than 87 percent of respondents who attended the event had a college or graduate-level degree.

Around 25 percent of the attendees were not from the Northern Virginia area, and around 75 percent of those respondents stayed in a hotel, compared with 7 percent who stayed in a bed and breakfast.

So Visit Loudoun wants to do more B&B participation this coming year, and the organization hopes to have 30 percent visitors by this year's event.

Visit Loudoun hopes to bring everything closer and more walkable at the event. Jenkins also mentioned there are plans this year to have all parking be on site for 2014.

Part of the survey showed visitors who stay overnight spend almost four times as much money.

There are also plans for a hotel shuttle which will arrive at the front door of hotels and drop patrons at the gates of the event.

Plans for marketing the event will "definitely be starting earlier this year," according to Jenkins.

Online ticketing is planned to begin in mid-March.



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