Music lovers have returned to festivals with a vengeance, but they’ve also become choosier and more eco-conscious. So tourism authorities need to adapt to their new priorities.
Paula Krizanovic, Skift
Music lovers have returned to festivals in large numbers this summer following their Covid-induced hiatus, a huge boon for destinations that rely on these events to attract visitors and accelerate their tourism recovery.
Jamaica is one of those destinations, with its popular and lucrative Reggae Sumfest helping to boost visitor numbers to the country. Jamaican Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett credited the July event with boosting its tourist boom, with the island setting a record for most tourist arrivals in a single summer.
“It was the first time since the pandemic that the event was held in person, drawing scores of international visitors to the island during the busy summer tourist season,” Bartlett said of the Caribbean’s largest music festival, which had attracted up to 10,000 visitors to the country before the pandemic.
“The success of this reggae sumfest is a testament to the return of travel, especially for events.”
The return of Brazilian Rock in Rio festivals earlier this month also brought a much-needed boost to Rio de Janeiro’s tourism industry, attracting visitors from every Brazilian state and 31 countries. About 60 percent of the 700,000 attendees at the sold-out event, which generated $323 million (Reais 1.7 billion) in the local economy in 2019, came from outside the city.
“The summer of 2022 saw massive demand for event travel,” said Joseph DeMarinis, CEO of BookSeats.com, a platform that allows event-goers to book bespoke packages of tickets and accommodation. Music fans spent almost three times more on travel for events in 2022 than on events in 2019.
The return of large crowds also poses major challenges for music festivals, which have long struggled to go green. But organizers are taking steps to be more sustainable. Glastonbury called on the approximately 200,000 attendees at this year’s event to commit to a Green Pledge to fight litter. Meanwhile, Rock in Rio aims to become a zero-waste event while reducing the use of plastic cups and straws.
“More and more people (are aware) of traveling sustainably,” said Tomas Loeffen, managing partner at Festival Travel, an Amsterdam-based company that arranges travel to events across Europe.
Loeffen also believes travelers are less interested in standard travel packages.
“Another trend we’re seeing is people with more specific needs than ever before, making standard packages – festival ticket, bus and camping – no longer enough for them,” said Loeffen. “They want to pick very specific things, like an extra day of camping or a packed breakfast in the pageant.”
Looking ahead, DeMarinis anticipates that the 2023 summer season will be even bigger, especially for travelers looking to attend music events worldwide. Loeffen believes that will be the case.
“In the years leading up to Covid, we saw an increase (in travelers) attending festivals,” Loeffen said. “And for 2023, we expect it to stay that way. It’s going to be the first normal year where people have less catching up to do and no ticket rollovers.”