Fringe festival parades its bang for State Budget buck

Adelaide’s festivals are continuing to prove a powerhouse for the state’s economy with the Fringe releasing more record figures today showing interstate visitors pushed a 40 per cent increase in economic expenditure at this year’s event to $105.5 million. At the same time, it made the top 10 mentioned brands on Instagram.

Jun 26, 2023, updated Jun 30, 2023
Adelaide Fringe Festival director Heather Croall. Photo: supplied

Adelaide Fringe Festival director Heather Croall. Photo: supplied

Director and chief executive officer Heather Croall was full of positive economic news at the release of this year’s Adelaide Fringe figures, saying tourists are staying longer and spending more with the average dollar spend figure rising from $607 in 2017 to $3420 in 2023.

The figures, according to Croall, show an extra $2 million investment announced in last year’s State Budget for Adelaide Fringe Festival to $4 million a year, is paying off with a large portion used to attract more tourists to South Australia.

Today’s numbers show a return on investment of $25 for every dollar of funding, Croall said, adding that most events aim to get “an $8 return”.

“This was the first year (there was an extra $2 million included) and it had a huge impact on our numbers,” Croall said.

Fringe data showed 45,000 interstate and overseas visitors were drawn to the state, Croall pointing out that its reach in promoting the state stretches further with its own team of “influencers” – 6,484 performing artists – telling the world about SA to vast numbers of social media followers.

“Artists are getting so, so smart about how they do their social media marketing and if you think about the scale of the Fringe and everyone who has their followers… everyone is getting out on their socials,” Croall said.

“A lot of artists have phenomenal numbers of followers and they are shouting about the Fringe and the noise is huge,” she said, adding that comedians Tommy Little has more than 290,000 followers and Jimeoin 69,000.

It led to Adelaide Fringe this year landing in the top 10 brands being mentioned on social media platform Instagram alongside Sydney WorldPride, the Australian Open, Bunnings and Coles.

The news comes on the back of the Fringe announcing earlier this year it was the first Australian festival to ever sell one million tickets, Croall saying about 46 per cent of available tickets to 1,340 shows was sold compared to 38 per cent the year before.

“If you put all the tickets sold in a football season by Port and the Crows, we sold more tickets than that,” Croall said.

And it also comes after news from Tourism Minister Zoe Bettison over the weekend showed WOMADelaide reported its highest ever total economic impact of $35.1 million with the event selling out three of its four days in March.

WOMADelaide saw a record number of first-timers among its 110,000 attendees, and the highest ever number of visitors to the state for the event. Figures showed 52 per cent of audience was made up of visitors to Adelaide spending an average of $2,729.

Back with the Adelaide Fringe, and a rundown of stats shows there were 520 venues running at this year’s event with 207 in the city and the rest spread through the suburbs and the state’s regions.

Croall said in terms of high-ticket sales to festivals there are few rivals in Australia, the Melbourne Comedy Festival sells about 300,000 tickets, the Perth festival around the same amount – while overseas the famed Edinburgh Fringe sells about two million tickets and Brighton about 500,000.

Adelaide Fringe Festival team with Heather Croall. Photo: supplied

“Tourists looking for festival experiences is really on the rise, cultural tourism is really growing and we have focused hard on trying to capture more and more of them,” she said.

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“In the lead up we ran campaigns interstate and overseas and made sure there was a headline show we promoted to those territories.”

The Fringe’s arts marketplace Honey Pot also saw about 350 venue creators, festival directors, television commissioners and programmers “that come here sourcing talent” lead to more than $3 million in future touring deals.

Croall said this reflected a growing number of export opportunities for local artists, citing England’s Latitude Festival this year having about 10 shows playing that included SA artists lured to the event from Adelaide Fringe.

“There’s energy in that, it’s unbelievable when there’s over 6000 artists in town and we have 400 significant decision-makers from significant industry in the world here, from the Soho Theatre in London, major festivals in France, Germany, Budapest, Romania, there was a huge Taiwanese contingent here this year,” Croall said.

“There were people here from Singapore, Tailand, Vietnam.”

In terms of accommodation turnover, 230,000 bed nights were recorded with local, interstate and international visitors along with artists utilising the state’s accommodation options.

While one in every two South Australians are also estimated to have been at a Fringe event with box office revenue rising by 21 per cent compared to last year to $25.1 million.

Arts Minister Andrea Michaels said the figures cemented the state’s reputation as the “arts capital of Australia” and proves the value of State Government investment.

In this year’s major events, sports and arts funding announcements in the State Budget, the Adelaide 500 car race received $18 million over four years plus another $3.5 million in one-off funding to “procure more shading for grandstand areas” in addition to its ongoing support of $3.5 million per annum.

The only other arts funding announcement was the Adelaide Film Festival receiving $2 million over four years.

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