By Chris Foy
You could say the testament of a good festival or event is its ability to transport you from the normal hustle of everyday life, to a place where you forget about your daily worries. Beyond their creative power though, events are big business. Across the UK, festivals, cultural and sporting events combined are worth around £6bn a year to the economy. Here in North-east of Scotland our thriving festival and events calendar translates into a thousand languages and has the ability to create a memorable immersive experience for locals and visitors alike. In Aberdeen alone, we benefit from visionary minds that curate ideas, and support from the City Council, Aberdeen Inspired and the business community help to bring these ideas to life.
The popularity of the growing events calendar is attracting creative minds and athletic prowess from throughout the world to display their work and compete at our unique city latitude. Where else would you find a giant plastic unicorn affixed to the side of a building in stark contrast to a cityscape of historic silver granite buildings?
The benefits of this thriving cultural sector are far reaching as they provide local traders with new audiences among the huge crowds that are drawn into the city. In February this year, the night sky above Aberdeen enveloped the bright lights and laser lightshows of the Spectra festival of light. The four-day event attracted a record audience of 96,000; a year on year increase of 30,000. These year-round events present businesses with a golden opportunity to capitalise on what is traditionally an off-peak shoulder period for visitor facing businesses.
The growth of audiences enjoying our cultural scene isn’t limited to the Spectra festival. It’s a reassuring trend we’re seeing across many of the festivals and events taking place in recent months throughout the North-east, including Nuart, Granite Noir and the Aberdeen Jazz Festival. A year-long research project commissioned by VisitAberdeenshire is quantifying the value of major events as well as assessing the experience itself. Results so far show that this year the jazz event doubled in size, extending from five days to 11, and attracted 7,600 people, a 20% year on year increase in audience numbers.
Events are a lever to promote the region and we’re fortunate to have an inspiring collection of events throughout the year which offer unique experiences to those who visit us. The Hogmanay Stonehaven Fireballs celebration is great example of an event that produces iconic images that help to promote us as a place that’s home to unique and authentic experiences.
We look forward to enjoying a summer of Inspired Nights, Traditional Boats, and Enjoying Music to name but a few, and importantly an opportunity for our restaurants, hotels and attractions to help grow our visitor economy around these showcases. It’s time to get creative with tourism.
Chris Foy is Chief Executive of VisitAberdeenshire