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Established 1995 filmfestivals.com serves and documents relentless the festivals community, offering 92.000 articles of news, free blog profiles and functions to enable festival matchmaking with filmmakers.

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Film Festival Tourism part II

As a response to the several inquiries that I have received, this article provides additional information following my December 15 background essay on the emerging field of film festival tourism. As noted before, film festival tourism is part of the rapidly expanding cultural tourism industry that serves a fairly affluent and knowledgeable audience. Conversely, local or national departments of tourism have realized that attracting cultural film tourists generates additional income for the local and regional economy, an assumption born out by several case studies. These departments are listed among the financial sponsors of foreign and domestic film festivals. Apart from those mentioned in my December article, the following film festivals are co-funded out of the tourism budgets: Cayman Islands IFF; Singapore IFF; Ankara IFF; Istanbul IFF; Tirana Cinema Short FF; Zanzibar IFF, actually branding itself as an "East Africa Cultural Tourism Product"; and, in North America, Edmonton IFF, The Osborne Classic FF, and the Santa Fe FF.

Individuals engaging in cultural travels are willing to pay for a packaged experience, presumably saving time and energy for a more effective consumption of culture during their trips. It is obvious that reaching affluent culture travelers will generate more income than reaching average beach or mountain tourists. The key to effectively accessing these groups is by selling the experience through a highly individuated and personalized approach. This cultural tourism, which is part of what is also known in the trade as “destination” or “event” tourism is facilitated by the growing discretionary income of upscale groups who are willing to pay thousands of dollars for participating in a film festival, attending a literary event, or listening to Wagner's operas in Bayreuth.

The increased interest in film festivals is fueled by exposure to college-based film and communications programs, access to low cost production technologies, rising consumption of visual products through stationary and portable platforms (which, in the US, will reach this year an estimated weekly 40 hours per individual), and the advent of a sensate “here and now” culture. Last but not least, film festivals have become an important part of the cultural landscape surrounding us.

Consumption of culture can be used as a factor differentiating audience groups since it serves as a social status symbol. After all, participating in an established film festival in a well-known or exotic and foreign location provides intangible prestige since it reflects a unique experience that can be ranked higher among peers than driving a BMW Socially speaking, there is more to sharing with friends the talk one had with Nicholas Cage or Shirley MacLaine than discussing the acceleration of the upscale car one owns, though access to both actors and car are equally expensive.

The profile of the U.S. target audience of cultural tourists who could be or are participating in international film festivals is not surprising. They are classified by the Canadian Tourism Commission as “festival tourism enthusiasts,” if they have participated in at least two festivals on a recent trip. In 2000, they comprised about four million adult Americans, of which about forty percent have taken recent trips to Mexico, the Caribbean, Europe and other countries outside North America with 75% having taken such trips over the last two years--with Mexico and Caribbean listed as the top destinations. Forty five percent come from the “35 to 54” age range. Most festival tourism enthusiasts live in adult-only households and come from middle, upper middle and high-income groups with above average educational achievement. About 1.4 million of the four million festival tourism enthusiasts are grouped as "Performing Arts Festival Tourism Enthusiasts," having attended two or more festivals on a recent trip. About one million reported participation in theatre and music festivals respectively, 720 thousand in literary festivals, and 450 thousand in international film festivals. Among the individuals belonging to the “Themed Community Festivals” group 145 thousand identified past participation in an international film festival.

Film Festival Tourism has therefore a solidly mid- and upscale consumer base which is likely to grow in tandem with the establishment of more film festivals, thus a greater ease of access. The Canadian Tourism Commission estimates that the international film festival audience is likely to increase by 40 percent by 2020, an increase far above the national Canadian economic growth rate of 27% for that period. Since there are no indications that the structural characteristics of our societies will change, I suspect that film festival tourism' growth rates will exceed the Canadian estimates. After all, there is a persistent consumption of visual images, an increasing affluence of upscale groups, the packaging of experience, a detachment from the public sphere, a shift towards a leisure life with instant gratifications etc. Further, the niche of film festival tourism has been totally disregarded by the travel industry. This lacuna and the packaging of film festival tourism will be addressed in the next installment.


Claus Mueller, New York Correspondent
e-mail filmexchange@gmail.com


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