The Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF), the largest and longest-running annual equestrian competition in North America, has once again demonstrated its monumental significance, not only in the realm of equestrian sports but also as a vital economic engine for Palm Beach County. The recently released economic impact study for the 2023 edition of WEF has revealed astounding figures that underscore the festival's unparalleled contribution to the region.
WEF, known for attracting athletes from over 34 countries and all 50 U.S. states, spans 13 consecutive weeks of prestigious competitions sanctioned by the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) and the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI). More than 34,000 horse entries are submitted during the season. The event, which commences in early January and concludes in late March, has left an indelible mark on Palm Beach County's economy.
Key Findings from the 2023 WEF Economic Impact Study:
- Nonresident Participants Make a Massive Impact: The spending of nonresident participants during the 2023 WEF contributed a staggering $351.7 million to Palm Beach County's Gross Domestic Product (GDP), supporting an impressive 3,364 jobs and resulting in labor earnings of $103 million.
- Horse Expenditures Reign Supreme: A significant portion of the contribution to GDP, approximately $262.5 million (74.6 percent), can be attributed to the direct expenditures related to horses. These direct expenditures also stimulated over $100 million in indirect expenditures within local supply chains and increased earnings for workers across various sectors in the local economy.
- Tourist Expenditures on the Rise: Direct tourist expenditures by nonresident participants, including lodging, dining, groceries, entertainment, shopping, paid local transportation, and more, amounted to $52.0 million, with an average of $22,727 per visiting party. These expenditures were a result of a significant increase in the number of participants in 2023.
- Spectators' Enthusiasm Shines: The survey of spectators highlighted the unwavering enthusiasm of WEF attendees. More than 95 percent reported a high degree of enjoyment with the competitions, and 65 percent had attended the WEF in the previous year.
- Spectators' Impact: Nonresident spectators made a direct contribution of $2.1 million during WEF 2023 Saturdays, boosting Palm Beach County's GDP by $3.4 million.
In summary, the 2023 Winter Equestrian Festival generated a remarkable increase of $352 million in the GDP of Palm Beach County, supporting 3,364 jobs across various industries and resulting in labor earnings of $103 million. Over 70 percent of this economic impact was attributed to horse expenditures, emphasizing the vital role equestrian sports play in the region.
WEF captivates audiences and stands as a cornerstone of Palm Beach County's economic success. It is a testament to the remarkable synergy between sports and economic prosperity.