First-of-its-kind report measures festivals’ multimillion-dollar impact on Ottawa’s economy

Bluesfest
The Foo Fighters play at RBC Bluesfest in 2018. File photo

An organization representing Ottawa’s festivals industry has quantified the major events scene’s impact on the capital’s economy for the first time.

Festivals and other major arts and culture events contributed $222.6 million to the local economy in 2016, according to the findings of Ottawa Festivals Network’s inaugural impact report released Wednesday. 

The total contribution from all of Ottawa’s festivals is likely higher, as OFN’s figures are based on complete surveys from just 37 respondents, including RBC Bluesfest, the Canadian Tulip Festival and other major organizers.

Of the total contributions to Ottawa’s economy, $141.2 million was directly generated by the festivals themselves and $81.4 million was either induced or indirectly related to major events that year. Lodging accounted for the largest single chunk of direct sales at 27 per cent, with food and beverage close behind at 24 per cent.

Out-of-town festival visitors spent $122.5 million overall in 2016, accounting for an estimated 234,000 room nights and more than 968,000 visitor days.

Sixty-three per cent of the respondent festivals’ 2016 revenues was earned, with 13 per cent gained from sponsors and the same amount coming from all three levels of government. On the other side, festivals contributed $33.5 million in taxes that year.

Festivals also prove to be a boon to local musicians. Some 37 per cent of artists that played at local festivals in 2016 were Ottawa-based.

Carole Anne Piccinin, the OFN’s executive director, said in a statement the inaugural study will serve as a benchmark for “repeatable and continued measurement” of the city’s festival scene.

“It serves as a first step towards more in-depth impact research of Ottawa’s festival industry,” she said.