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SXSW 2014 Brought $315 Million to Austin

Lady Gaga, SXSW
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Lady Gaga performs on the Doritos #BoldStage at Stubb?s Bar-B-Q on Thursday, March 13, 2014 at the South by Southwest Music Festival in Austin, Texas

This past year's South by Southwest Music, Film, Interactive, Edu and Eco Conferences and Festivals brought more than $315.3 million to the city of Austin, Texas, according to an analysis the organization released Thursday. 

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"SXSW continues to be an extraordinary celebration of the cultural fabric of Austin and all that Austinites value," said Michael W. Rollins, CCE, president of the Austin Chamber of Commerce in a press release. "Besides focusing the eyes of the world on our city in March, SXSW brings employment to many thousands of our citizens and allows them to provide for their families.

"From entertainment venues that employ local bands to hotels to retail establishments and all the support industry that provides services that visitors require to the many innovative businesses that have relocated or started up here because of exposure Austin gained during SXSW, this event has helped drive the thriving economy in Central Texas. The fact is that all Austinites benefit from SXSW as the City of Austin has collected millions of dollars in taxes through the years that can be directly attributable to SXSW."

In 2014, it's 28th year, SXSW featured 13 days of industry conferences, four-day trade show, six-night music festival with more than 2,100 bands and nine-day film festival with more than 400 film screening. In all, it attracted 44,500 registrants and a total of 134,000 attendees who attended at least one SXSW activity. 

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The conference booked 13,990 individual hotel rooms at an average of 4.32 nights, making for a total of 60,450 room nights in all. As such, the average nightly hotel rate was up 12 percent from last year to more than $287 each. 

Earlier this year SXSW interactive's director Hugh Forrest discussed the convention's relationship with Austin with Billboard. He said, "The city government as well as the chamber of commerce understand how much money the event helps bring into Austin and how much of a spotlight it puts on Austin and has made a lot more people aware of Austin, and that's a good thing." 

He continued, "That said, as with any relationship, if you dig a little deeper there, there are challenges. There are things we want to do that the city doesn't want us to do, there are certainly a lot of people in Austin who may enjoy live music or may enjoy tech or movies but aren't particularly fond of the traffic that's here during the event. So again, it would be too much of a generalization to say that everything is rosy. As with most things in life, there are lots of positives but there are also some negatives as well."

The $315.3 million figure is up from 2013's $218 million, and is totaled by its operational output, SXSW registrant attendance expenditures and its free-to-the-public SXSWeek participant expenditures. 

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The operational output is measured by the direct, indirect and induced local economic benefits of the year-round operations of SXSW as well as expenditures by SXSW and official sponsors. Alone, the impact of SXSW operations on the Austin economy was $121.9 million in 2014. 

SXSW registrant attendance expenditures are the direct, indirect and induced local economic benefit of all attendees of the conference and festival. Attendees include official SXSW badge-holders, industry professionals, wristband holders, festival exhibitors and single visitors of events such as film screenings and music concerts. The economic impact of SXSW attendance expenditures was $136.5 million in 2014. 

SXSWeek participant expenditures are the estimated impact of direct, indirect, and induced spending by SXSW guest pass holders and parties affiliated, both directly and indirectly, with SXSW. This year marks the first year the majority of SXSWeek participant expenditures have been measured for the economic impact. In 2014, the economic impact of SXSW participants expenditures exceeded $56.9 million.

The full study is available here.