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Sumfest highlights the economic value of events
Wednesday, July 31, 2019

A section of the crowd at Reggae Sumfest
People engaged in the travel industry will admit that events hold the potential to drive huge visitor traffic to a destination.

For example, Summerfest, the 50-year-old music festival staged on the shore of Lake Michigan in the United States is reported to attract audiences in the range of 800,000 to 900,000 annually.

Probably the fact that Summerfest, staged in late June and early July, features more than 700 artistes performing on 11 different stages over 11 days is what influenced its ranking by the Guinness Book of Records in 1999 as ‘The world’s largest music festival’.

However, Summerfest’s audience numbers pale when compared to the approximately 2.65 million that are said to attend the Mawazine Festival staged in Rabat, Morocco, each year in May and which features huge American and African acts.

As is to be expected, shops, local markets, transportation, restaurants, hotels, and many more businesses benefit from the Mawazine Festival. In fact, data from the festival’s website indicate that the event is a major source of business for Morocco. Retail, catering, and the transportation sectors are reported to experience growth in sales by an average of 30 per cent, we are told. In addition, hotels have reported increases in sales by an average of 22 per cent.

While we have not yet received official data from Jamaica’s tourism authorities, word is that an estimated 10,000 visitors came here during the staging of this year’s Reggae Sumfest.

In fact, Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett has indicated that $1 billion was generated at the music festival held July 14-20 in Montego Bay, the city regarded as Jamaica’s tourism capital.

But even without the official data, no one can challenge the benefit of Reggae Sumfest to the Jamaican economy, as the event, titled ‘The greatest reggae festival on Earth’, has immense international appeal, driven by our music and reputation as one of the world’s leading visitor destinations.

From all reports, this year’s staging of Sumfest was successful, and the organisers are describing it as the “biggest and best ever” in the festival’s history.

“It went very, very well,” Mr Robert Russell, a co-founder of the festival, told this newspaper. “Everybody has done very well. The vendors are happy; the massive crowd is happy; the musicians, the security forces… everything has gone very well this year.”

Based on that success, and armed with the knowledge that events do attract large numbers of visitors to tourist destinations, the organisers of Reggae Sumfest are mulling the staging of a jazz and blues music festival.

That type of event is not foreign to Jamaica, as in previous years the country successfully hosted the Air Jamaica Jazz and Blues Festival, featuring mega stars such as Celine Dion, Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers, George Benson, Al Jarreau, Patti LaBelle, Diana Ross, Lionel Ritchie, Kenny Rogers, Air Supply, Maroon 5, Mariah Carey, The Pointer Sisters, and Babyface, to name a few.

These types of events can be extremely expensive to stage, but the team of investors involved in Reggae Sumfest have the requisite skill and experience to do well. As such, they should be encouraged to seriously take on the staging of a jazz and blues festival, as that will give a further boost to the economy and, of course, our tourism industry.

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