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Report Finds SXSW Continues to Boost Austin's Economy

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon
Laura Skelding looks through Samsung Virtual Reality headset during the SXSW interactive festival in downtown Austin on March 11, 2016.

South By Southwest organizers say the festival continues to bring a growing economic benefit to Austin. The festival's annual economic impact report released today shows this year’s SXSW brought $325.3 million to Austin’s economy, an increase of more than $8 million from last year.

So, how exactly did they come up with that number? Organizers count the festival’s direct impact – which includes badge and wristband sales – along with its indirect and induced impact. That’s the increase in earnings for businesses that may or may not be affiliated with the festival. Ben Loftsgarden is a partner with Greyhill Advisors, the firm which compiles the report each year for SXSW.

Credit Greyhill Advisors

“The impact numbers that you see, they represent the economic benefit to the City of Austin, its municipal offices, its businesses and its citizens,” Loftsgarden said. “This is most clearly seen in the growth in tourism for the city of Austin.”

Loftsgarden says they attribute the growth to SXSW participants staying in town longer and paying more for hotels – with guests staying a little over five nights on average, an increase from last year. And, with average hotel rates of $350 a night, the city collected $1.8 million in hotel occupancy tax revenue, the report says. 

However, the report doesn’t factor in subsidies that the festival gets from the city that offset the revenue collected during the 13-day festival. The City of Austin waives certain fees for SXSW – for things like parking and street closures.

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