Festival a big economic boost

Roots & Blues: Study author says benefits must be preserved.

Protect the gem.

That was part of the message brought by Billy Collins, a lecturer at Thompson Rivers University in the department of tourism management, who authored a study on the 2013 Salmon Arm Roots and Blues Festival. He spoke enthusiastically about the event’s benefits at the city’s planning meeting Monday.

“You have a gem, people come from all over the region to attend… You should feel protective of the festival,” he told council.

Compiled from nearly 1,800 on-site interviews, plus subsequent online surveys, the study found the 2013 festival generated more than $4 million in new spending by tourists.

Of the total $4,089,296 spent by non-locals, the average amount that non-local, paying festival attendees each spent on-site during the festival was $497.87. Off-site they spent $528.59, combining for a total of $1,026.46 each. That translated into a total of $2,788,792.60.

Non-local volunteers added an average of $807.85 each ($528.59 of that off-site) for a total of $1,300,503.86.

Local attendees, both paid and volunteer, added another $845,725.16 of total expenditures on-site. The combined spending by attendees, both local and non-local, was nearly $5 million on- and off-site – at $4,935,021.62.

(Off-site expenditures by locals were not included in the study.)

Off-site, the largest expenditures for non-local attendees were for: lodging, gas, food at grocery stores and at restaurants and shopping, including souvenirs.

While attendees were fairly evenly split by gender, the majority were 45 and older.

“To me, I see that as being something to think about… Not only are they Boomers, but they’re very loyal fans…How do you attract a younger audience and train them to become their parents?” Collins asked.

For those non-locals attending, they overwhelmingly said their destination was the festival itself, Collins said. However, more than a third said they would go to a similar event elsewhere.

“So you are in competition with other festivals, but they’re choosing you.”

He said attendees are incredibly satisfied with the event.

“They’re so satisfied, it’s beyond believable…”

Coun. Ken Jamieson asked why some festivals fail.

Collins said often it’s the ‘build big, promoter approach.’ He said Salmon Arm’s success is related to how the audience has grown along with the festival, as has the volunteer base.

Coun. Alan Harrison asked what local government can do to support its success. Collins said public policy is important. He said B.C. should have a five-year plan, noting that the premier was “hell-bent to have the Olympics,” but benefits didn’t spill into other parts of B.C.

He recommended  a two-year plan locally.

In response to Harrison’s question and those from Couns. Denise Reimer and Chad Eliason about recommendations, Collins listed several, including running events at other times to complement Roots and Blues, such as the bike fest.

“The world doesn’t need another music festival.”

He suggested data should be revisited every couple of years.

“It’s really important to know who your audience is.”

He said any investment in the festival is money well spent, and emphasized the competitive nature of the festival industry.

“Recognize the gem. I have seen more disasters in the music industry than successes. Period.”