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SXSW’s Impact on Austin Economy Totals a Record $356 Million, Study Shows

In the entirety of its 33-year history, South by Southwest’s 2019 event had the greatest economic impact on businesses and residents in Austin, Texas, according to an analysis prepared by Greyhill Advisors in conjunction with SXSW. The study showed that this year’s conference brought $355.9 million of revenue into the Austin economy. 

SXSW is a quintessential Austin story,” said the city’s mayor, Steve Adler. “Starting as a music festival, then expanding to include film and evolving further to cover interactive technology, as well as education and gaming, SXSW has become the world’s fair of the future. The economic impact of SXSW is on par with hosting the Super Bowl every year, and all participants benefit year round.”

The impact analysis report divides SXSW’s economic impact into attendance impact (expenditures by SXSW credentialed participants and single ticket holders), operational impact (year-round operations involving a staff of full-time, temporary and seasonal workers) and consumer impact (expenditures by SXSW Guest Pass and consumer participants). Respectively, the numbers are $182.1 million, $157.1 million and $16.7 million. 

SXSW remains the single most profitable event for Austin’s hospitality industry, beating even Austin City Limits, another massive music festival. Direct booking by SXSW generated nearly $1.7 million in hotel occupancy tax revenue alone. The conference claimed 12,000 individual hotel reservations and 51,500 total room nights through bookings directly through SSW, with an average per-room rate of $365 a night and average stay of more than five nights. Entertainment spending by event attendees goes directly to restaurants, retail stores and theaters throughout central Austin. 

Founded as a music festival in 1987, SXSW is now known for conferences and festivals that highlight the intersection of interactive, film and music industries. The annual event attracts global professionals for showcases, screenings, concerts and networking opportunities. 

“SXSW has been an amazing partner to the Austin community and has financially supported so many of our urban community spaces. We are grateful for their leadership in the Austin community,” said Colin Wallis, CEO of Austin Parks Foundation. 

Extensive global media coverage on SXSW reveals a large return on Austin’s relatively modest investment into the event. In 2019, the value of SXSW’s print, broadcast and online publication coverage totaled $339.6 million. 

SXSW 2019 included 14 days of various industry conferences. Lizzo, Rico Nasty, J Balvin and DaBaby were among the featured musical performers. Keynote speakers included Olivia Wilde, Bozoma Saint John and Beastie Boys members Adam Horovitz and Michael Diamond. The nine-day film lineup featured premieres of Jordan Peele’s “Us,” Gene Stupnitsky’s “Good Boys” and John Lee Hancock’s “The Highwaymen.” 

SXSW 2020 will take place March 13-22.

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