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Arts festivals deserve a sporting chance


Arts festivals are key tourism drivers and should be given the same level of promotion as major sporting events, latest research shows.

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University of South Australia arts management experts Professor Ruth Rentschler and Dr Boram Lee studied the links between arts festivals, collaboration, value creation and tourism in the wake of COVID-19.

Their findings call for the art festival sector to gain better tourism promotion to support its future and reset challenges stretching back years.

“Across Australia, cultural tourists travel further, stay longer and spend more than other tourists, with more cultural tourists attending the arts than wineries and sport, so this is a strong market to capitalise on for South Australia,” Prof Rentschler says.

“In the past, as a state, we haven’t done as much as we could to promote cultural tourism, so there is a real opportunity to grow that area, especially given domestic tourism is likely to see a major upswing while international tourism remains restricted.”

South Australia is known as the Festival State and hosts many significant arts events every year including Adelaide Fringe, WOMAD, Cabaret Festival and the Adelaide Festival.

“There is a need to build bridges between arts festival organisers and the general public to foster and develop an eco-system that includes both face-to-face and streamed services,” the report said.

The research revealed a 15 per cent increase in overnight trips to South Australia since 2014, with 12 per cent of those trips including an arts activity.

However, in recent months arts festivals and tourism have emerged as two of the worst hit industries during COVID-19 with many events cancelled or forced online.

The report, Tourism and the Rise of the Arts, was completed with support from Arts South Australia and the Adelaide Festival and called for events to be run smart and slow in the future.

Its authors said tourism marketing could better leverage arts festivals as the state reopens for business.

Prof Rentschler called on tourism experts to rethink their strategies and pointed to a bias toward promoting sport instead of arts festivals in the past.

“For instance, there was a lack of publicity around the opening of the 60th year of the Adelaide Fringe or the Adelaide Festival, where sport events, such as ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open and the build up to the ICC T20 World Cup were promoted,” she said.

“This is a clear missed opportunity to promote both the state as a cultural tourism destination and our arts festival sector as a key part of the social fabric.

“Our research suggests there are widespread benefits to rectifying the issue.”

The report showed the state’s art festival sector was growing before the pandemic and pinpointed opportunities for survival and recovery to attract vital funds for the state.

“A post-COVID-19 world could have long-lasting effects on the consumption patterns of tourists, leading to greater popularity for digital streaming of arts festival activities, high-end tourism, as well as a focus on health and well-being,” the report said.

Prof Rentschler called for more collaboration to push the arts higher on the promotional agenda, as figures pointed toward specific events successfully targeting specific tourism markets.

The report used the Mozart opera from Berlin at the 2020 Adelaide Festival as an example, showing it attracted interstate tourism, while the Adelaide Festival brand attracted tourism from Asian source markets.

Prof Rentschler said more “virtual experiences will be needed as arts festivals move forward, as a ‘smart’ way to engage with audiences.”

The report pointed to Tourism Australia launching a “Live from Aus” campaign, scheduling live uniquely Australian travel experiences with experts, such as a “Mate date dinner party with Matt Moran” and a “Wine and Art Pairing with Chester Osborn at the d’Arenberg Cube in South Australia

Data from 2017 suggested that 4.5million people attended South Australian festivals of which 73,113 were interstate and international visitors.

Visitor expenditure during their stay was estimated at $81.3million.


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