County Research Tracks Festivals’ Economic Impact

Media Release

For years Hawai’i Island communities and organizations have hosted festivals and events that showcase island culture and arts, and those public celebrations generate millions of dollars annually in economic activity.

Now the County of Hawai’i is launching a research effort to get a better fix on just how much business is being generated by the festivals and events, and who benefits.

The Hawai’i Tourism Authority (HTA) has just announced it will distribute more than $415,000 to non-profit organizations that will put on 47 events on Hawai’i Island this year ranging from music and film festivals to a Chinese New Year’s celebration and a rodeo.

The county Department of Research and Development administers the HTA funds through the County Product Enrichment Program. The county this year plans to collect more hard economic data on the events as part of the reporting process when event organizers detail how they spent the money they have received.

The festivals and events are conceived at the grassroots level, and often amount to communities joining together to celebrate their own traditions in an organized way that is welcoming to the general public, said Diane Ley, interim deputy director for the county Department of Research & Development.

“Most of these people are doing what they do because they have a passion for it, they love it,” Ley said. “They are rodeo fans, so they put on a rodeo, but they don’t think in terms of the economic impact that rodeo has on the Pana’ewa area.”

“It’s a young industry. It’s an industry that doesn’t necessarily think of itself as an industry,” Ley said of the festivals and events.

Ley cited other examples such as soaring sales of taro chips in Wailea village the day of the mochi pounding festival. “That had to have an economic impact on that business,” she said.

“This is community economic development,” said Hawaii Island Mayor Billy Kenoi. “It’s empowering the communities to say, this is something that we value and we treasure, not just because it’s part of our culture or because it’s part of our heritage, but because it’s really important for the economy of our area.”

The new reporting requirements ask the non-profits who put on the festivals to ask their suppliers how much of a business boost they get from the events.

The suppliers will also be polled on whether they in turn buy goods or services from other businesses to supply the festivals. That way, the county can begin to track the economic “ripple effect” from the festivals and events, Ley said.

To review the list of Hawai’i County events funded by HTA under its County Product Enrichment Program, click on the link at the bottom of the news release posted at:

http://www.hawaiitourismauthority.org/index.cfm?page=news_releases&news_id=136

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