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Life & Arts

SXSW 2015 Gave Austin's Economy a $317 Million Boost, Study Reports

SXSW_crowd2015.jpg
Ilana Panich-Linsman/KUT
The six nights of SXSW Music featured more than 2,200 bands in 2015. The festival gave Austin's economy a boost, according to an annual study commissioned by the city.

The results of Austin’s annual SXSW economic impact study are in, and according to the findings, the festival once again served as an economic boon to the city.

The 2015 festival — including the Interactive, Film, Sustainability (Eco), Education (Edu) and Music portions — brought in $317.2 million. That’s the highest figure ever reported in the nine years since the city started doing this yearly study. It’s an increase from last year's festival, which brought in just over $315 million.

This year, the festival saw success with some of its first-time events, like the medicine and technology expo.

Hugh Forrest, who directs South by Southwest Interactive, says the med expo did well in part because of the upcoming Dell Medical School in Austin.

"It’s also a reflection on the changes brought by Obamacare, and there are lots of opportunities for startups in the healthcare space now, so we benefited well from that," Forrest says.

In 2016, medical technology will start at the very beginning of the interactive portion. And interactive will bump up against music, in the hopes tech fans will stay in Austin for the bands. 

Next year will be SXSW’s 30th anniversary. And as it continues to grow, the festival remains “a key economic driver that supports our local economy and innovation community well after the main event concludes,” says Michael Rollins, President of the Austin Chamber of Commerce.

The service industry in particular feels a lot of SXSW’s economic impact: It’s the single most profitable event for Austin’s hospitality industry. 

The report covers a lot of ground, so we’ve pulled out some of the numbers here.

  • 13,300: The number of hotel reservations booked directly through SXSW this year
  • 5: The average number of nights of those hotel guests’ lengths of stay
  • 60,254: The total number of nights booked in Austin hotels (by people who booked directly through SXSW)
  • 330: The average nightly hotel rate, in dollars, for rooms booked through SXSW in 2015
  • 55: The percent by which hotel rates during SXSW have increased over the past 5 years
  • 90 million: The assessed value, in dollars, of the SXSW coverage in online, print and broadcast media
  • 400: The number of official film screenings at 2015 SXSWFilm
  • 2,275: The number of bands officially featured in 2015 SXSWMusic
  • 85: The number of countries officially represented at the festival

The study was conducted by Greyhill Advisors. The full 2015 report is available for download here.

SXSW 2016 will mark the 30th anniversary of the festival, which in its first year drew about 700 visitors.

Correction: The audio version of this story didn't specify the $317 million was the total economic impact of SXSW 2015.

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