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SXSW Brings Home the Bacon

Written by , published September 18, 2013

At a press conference on Wednesday, Sept. 18, Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell speaks about the phenomenal economic impact that 2013 SXSW Conference has had on the City of Austin. Kevin Johns of Austin's Economic Growth and Redevelopment Office shares enthusiasm over the numbers. Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell speaks about the phenomenal economic impact that 2013 SXSW Conference has had on the City of Austin. Kevin Johns of Austin's Economic Growth and Redevelopment Office shares enthusiasm over the numbers.

The numbers don’t lie. This afternoon, Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell shared the results of a comprehensive economic impact report that shows the 2013 South by Southwest Music, Film and Interactive Conferences and Festivals (SXSW) injected more than $218.2 million into the Austin economy.  That’s $25 million over last year!

This analysis, by Greyhill Advisors, validates the fact that SXSW is big, and it solidifies SXSW’s reputation as the world’s premier gathering, and Austin’s reputation as a creative Mecca for music, film and interactive arts.

“Few events can match the depth and breadth of SXSW,” says Leffingwell. He’s right.

SXSW continues to be the single most profitable event for the City of Austin’s hospitality industry with its offerings of

  • 9 days of industry conferences
  • a 4-day trade show
  • a 6-night music festival featuring more than 2,200 bands
  • and a 9-day film festival with more than 400 screenings.

How about these facts:

  • In 2013, SXSW directly booked 13,000 individual hotel reservations totaling 56,000-plus room nights—a 10 percent increase over 2012. Fueled by limited capacity and an overall increase in spending by registrants the average nightly hotel rate jumped 20 percent to nearly $255.
  • At nearly 155,000, the total number of 2013 SXSW Conference and Festival participants (defined as any individual who attended at least one SXSW activity) exceeded all previous records.
  • SXSW’s popular free-to-the-public consumer events, including the 3-night Auditorium Shores concert series, the 2-day Digital Creatives Job Market, 4-day Flatstock poster art show, 1-day Edu Future Plans Fair, 3-day Music Gear Expo and the 3-day SXSW Gaming Expo, attracted an additional 150,000 participants.

Justin Timberlake Justin Timberlake and the Tennessee Kids perform at the 2013 SXSW Conference. (Photo by Jason Kempin)

With the recent additions of Education and Sustainability conferences to its portfolio, SXSW also extended its signature event-management expertise to new, innovative domains and broadened its local economic impact.

Ben Loftsgaarden of Greyhill Advisors says that SXSW “continues to flex its economic muscle for the Austin economy. He adds that of the registrants, about

“SXSW continues to be a truly remarkable event for Austin,” said Austin Chamber President Michael Rollins. “This festival not only brings the world’s attention to Austin’s strengths in community, creativity and commerce, but also provides opportunities to spotlight and support our small businesses which work tirelessly to prepare for – and engage with – the festival’s record-setting attendance of over 155,000. Every year we see more quantitative and qualitative benefits from SXSW, and are thrilled to see what the future holds.”

Flatstock Poster Show at the 2013 SXSW Conference. (Photo by Merrick Ales) Flatstock Poster Show at the 2013 SXSW Conference. (Photo by Merrick Ales)

With the continued growth, year after year, it’s no surprise that sales for the next year’s event is already setting new milestones.

“It’s hard to resist thinking about what 2014 is going to bring for us,’ says SXSW Director Mike Shea, but the ticket and hotel bookings show 2014 is already setting a new pace.

“SXSW® Music, Film and Interactive Conferences and Festivals serves as a cornerstone event for the innovative culture of our city,  and Austin continues to prosper alongside their tremendous growth,“ said Bob Lander, President and CEO of the Austin CVB. “It is also the primary building block in an extremely robust convention season for 2014 and beyond.”

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