A Few Less Dollars
SXSW economic impact stumbles after multi-year pandemic closures
Still coping with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, South by Southwest saw its local economic impact drop 27 percent from the pre-pandemic year of 2019 to this year, 2022.
SXSW announced on September 21 that this year’s version of the music, film, and interactive confab generated an economic impact of $280.7 million for the Austin economy. By comparison, the economic impact of the 2019 gathering totaled $355.9 million.
Consulting firm Greyhill Advisors produced the 2019 and 2022 economic impact studies. Five days before the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, the City of Austin shut down the 2020 edition of SXSW. The 2021 event was held virtually. This year’s in-person gathering lasted 13 days.
“We celebrate the return to Austin of SXSW and its unique energy that showcases the arts, live music, and technologies of the future,” Austin Mayor Steve Adler says in a news release about this year’s economic impact report. “SXSW captures why and how this city has become home to and attracts the most innovative and creative people. And once again, our local businesses and creatives were able to enjoy the support that SXSW brings.”
Although the economic impact of SXSW declined from 2019 to 2022, the event remains one of the biggest moneymakers for Austin’s hospitality industry.
In 2022, SXSW directly booked more than 10,000 individual hotel reservations totaling more than 45,500 room nights for event registrants. The average nightly hotel rate for SXSW-booked rooms in 2022 rose $2 over the average rate in 2019. Direct bookings by SXSW alone generated nearly $1.8 million in hotel occupancy tax revenue this year for the City of Austin.
Next year’s SXSW will be March 10-19.
“We were especially excited to see the crowds return … after being cooped up for so long,” says Hugh Forrest, chief programming officer at SXSW. “This year’s event was a huge success for the organization and for the city of Austin. While the anticipation of 2022 will be hard to top, we are thrilled to be producing an even stronger experience this coming March.”