In a year that, by all accounts, wasn’t expected to make a strong showing in the tourism industry, Celtic Colours International Festival bucked the trend. The Festival’s unique combination of culture, heritage, history and scenery, bolstered by new investment and marketing initiatives, found new audiences and increased visitorship to the island, resulting in a $5.5 million economic impact on Cape Breton Island in 2009.
“A good portion of the credit for this success goes to ECBC and The Nova Scotia Department of Tourism, Culture and Heritage,” says Mary Pat Mombourquette, Business Director. “These partners funded new marketing initiatives that allowed us to reach a broader international audience.”
Dan Coffin, Marketing Manager, says this investment in new marketing initiatives enabled Celtic Colours to take advantage of new technology and social networking tools like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.
“With all the attention that was being given to the economic downturn in 2009,” says Coffin, “we knew it was more important then ever to go further to reach our niche audience and provide them with the resources they need in order to make the decision to attend our festival.”
As a result of this outreach, more audience members came from off-island in 2009 than in 2008, more shows sold out, and more than half of all tickets purchased at the Box Office were purchased by customers off-island with ticket-buyers traveling from more than twenty countries to attend Celtic Colours.
“During a global economic downturn, more off-island visitors chose to spend their leisure dollars at Celtic Colours International Festival than ever before,” says Mombourquette. “This increased our economic impact on the island by over a million dollars as compared to 2008.” The Festival typically contributes between 4 and 5 million dollars to the economy each year.
The economic impact is calculated from data collected at concerts and ticket sales. Ballots collected at each show provide the geographic breakdown of the audience. Audience surveys supply the amount of money audience members report spending while at the Festival. An average expenditure per person is calculated according to the geographic region from which they have traveled. That dollar value is multiplied by the number of attendees from that region and all regions resulting in the economic impact of the Festival.
The impact of the festival goes well beyond visitor expenditures though. Celtic Colours put over $100,000 back into community venues in 2009 and another $45,000 was realized by the groups who hosted more than 290 community cultural activities. One hundred twenty-six non-profit organizations throughout the island partnered with Celtic Colours to get directly involved in the festival. Richmond County jumped on board in 2009 with a wide range of activities in addition to their concerts. The result was that visitors stayed several days in the area and the hotel and restaurants were full.
And while the Festival’s role in the economy of Cape Breton Island is certainly very important, it’s the immeasurable aspects of the Festival that will ensure its long-term sustainability. Artistic Director Joella Foulds notes that while the new marketing initiatives implemented this year help to spread the word about the Festival, it is the quality of the event, and its unique setting, that has allowed it to maintain its strong reputation over the past thirteen years.
“Our marketing was successful as a long term strategy,” says Foulds, “because we delivered the programming that we promised and that people really enjoyed. Top quality artists and performances were flanked by interesting and engaging daytime activities. What is unique about ?Celtic Colours is that people feel that they have experienced the? culture of the island, not just great concerts. That keeps them coming ?back.”
For a sampling of what the Festival had to offer in 2009, visit www.celtic-colours.com to see the newly launched 2009 highlight video. And stay tuned for information on Celtic Colours International Festival 2010, taking place October 8-16.