South by Southwest isn’t the only major event bringing big bucks to Austin each March.
Rodeo Austin had a $77 million impact on the local economy in 2014, up from $68.8 million in 2011 and $54.6 million in 2008, according to a study commissioned by rodeo officials.
The rodeo supports 974 jobs in the region and generated $1.9 million in sales and hotel taxes for the city of Austin and Travis County, according to the report.
Austin-based economic consulting firm TXP conducted the study, which was paid for by rodeo officials.
A separate report released last fall showed SXSW’s 2014 economic impact was $315 million.
This year’s Rodeo Austin was held March 14 to March 28 at the Travis County Expo Center. Rodeo Austin CEO Bucky Lamb said attendance was up about 2 percent from 2014, when more than 250,000 spectators and 8,000 exhibitors were on hand for the two-week event. An economic impact study for the 2015 event has not yet been conducted.
“It was a great year for us,” Lamb said. “We’ve been tracking economic impact for 15 years and we continue to see the numbers grow.”
While some view SXSW and the rodeo as competing for attendees each year, Lamb said he believes the two events complement each other and, in many cases, are going after different audiences.
“We’re there as an alternative for families,” he said. “Spring break at the rodeo has become a family tradition.”
The rodeo crowds are largely from Austin and elsewhere in Texas, TXP’s study found, while SXSW has more global appeal. Still, plenty of visitors from outside the state – and outside the United States – make their way to the Expo Center each year, Lamb said.
“They want to experience it,” he said. “They want to be a cowboy or a cowgirl for a day.”
About 35 percent of rodeo attendees and 85 percent of exhibitors in 2014 were from outside the Austin area, according to TXP, with the average out-of-towner spending $185 per day on lodging, food and retail purchases. The average stay was 1.5 nights for attendees and two nights for exhibitors.
“We’re proud to have an impact on a whole lot of local businesses,” Lamb said. “I like to think we’re making a positive difference.”
Looking ahead, Lamb said Rodeo Austin has the potential to have even more of an impact on the local economy as it considers an expansion. A study that’s in the works will come up with some options to give the rodeo, which dates back to 1938, more event space.
“We’ve honestly outgrown the Expo Center,” Lamb said. “That’s a positive challenge to have.”