The 2018 South by Southwest festivals had a $350.6 million impact on Austin’s economy, according to a new report released Monday.
That’s an increase of just less than 1 percent compared to 2017, when the total was $348.6 million.
The Austin City Limits Music Festival, by comparison, had an estimated impact of $255 million on Austin’s economy in 2017, according to a report commissioned by the producer of the event, C3 Presents.
“SXSW is a quintessential Austin story,” Austin Mayor Steve Adler said in a written statement. “Starting as a music festival, then expanding to include film and evolving further to cover interactive technology, as well as education and now gaming, SXSW has become the world’s fair of the future. It has made Austin the focal point of the world in March. The economic impact of SXSW is on par with hosting the Super Bowl every year and, even if you don’t come to the event, we all benefit year round.”
An estimated 425,000 people participated in various SXSW events this year, down slightly from last year’s reported total of 440,000.
SXSW is the single most profitable event for the city’s hospitality industry, according to Greyhill Advisors, which conducted the study for SXSW.
Visitors to Austin booked 53,000 room nights during the 14-day festival. SXSW says direct bookings helped the city net $1.8 million in hotel occupancy tax.
The average SXSW visitor stayed five nights this year.
“I can think of no single event that has more impact on the Austin hospitality and tourism industry than South by Southwest,” said Scott Joslove, president and CEO of the Texas Hotel and Lodging Association. “For hotels, it means room nights and the capacity to sustain continued job growth within our industry. For the city, it yields unparalleled growth in the city sales tax, alcohol tax and hotel tax.”
Other businesses that benefit from SXSW, Greyhill Advisors found, include restaurants, movie theaters, live music venues, retailers, print shops and transportation companies such as taxi and shuttle bus operators.
Meanwhile media coverage of SXSW this year – broadcast, print and online – had a combined value of $431.4 million, Greyhill Advisors’ report estmated.
“SXSW and the associated media coverage represent an extraordinary return on the city of Austin’s comparatively modest investment in SXSW,” Greyhill Advisors said in its report. “The ubiquity of SXSW media coverage is a unique and deeply valuable asset to the city of Austin.”
SXSW 2019 is set to run March 8-17. It will mark the first time that the festival will not coincide with the University of Texas’ spring break, which is the following week.