Winter festivals fill the bill

WINTER festivals have been taking the chill off Byron Bay businesses by bringing tour-ists to town.

With the likes of the Byron Bay Writers' Festival, Splendour in the Grass, Bluesfest and the Boomerang Festival in October, Northern Rivers residents aren't starved for choice when it comes to arts and culture.

However, these events don't just cater for music and literature lovers alike; they're a big win for the region's economy, statistics show.

An economic impact report undertaken by Lawrence Consulting and released by Byron Bay Bluesfest during May showed the 2013 festival generated $64.1 million for Byron Shire's economy.

Bluesfest also created almost 400 full-time equivalent jobs with estimated total wages and income of $10.8 million in the area.

President of Byron Bay business group Byron United and general manager of The Balcony restaurant Paul Waters has experienced first-hand the positive impact of festivals coming to town.

"We had almost 30,000 people come to town during Splendour, which had a big effect on the Byron shire," Mr Waters said.

"Business traffic picks up and this is vital for our mid-year cold season when there aren't as many holiday goers about."

Mr Waters said mid-year festivals created long-term financial benefits for Byron Bay through the multiplier effect where money spent locally is recirculated in the local economy, boosting jobs.

"Only a small part of the winter festival economy is produced when people spend (money) while attending a festival," Mr Waters said.

"Locals earn wages because they work during festi- vals and then they go out for dinner or get their car fixed in the area."

Byron Mayor Simon Richardson said winter festivals are the most desirable for the region.

"Winter festivals bring an economic benefit to what is traditionally our quiet period," Cr Richardson said.

"They help our businesses in our time of need."

However, it's not just local businesses that benefit from winter festivals, with charity stalls at this year's Bluesfest raking in more than $120,000.

Cr Richardson said the social benefits of winter festivals should not be underplayed.

"It's almost like Mohammed comes to the mountain with how many amazing cultural experiences residents can have in our area," Cr Richardson said.

"Festivals like Byron Bay Blues Festival and Splendour in the Grass also provide spaces for community groups such as BayFM and environmental groups to raise money and awareness," Cr Richardson said.

Writers' festival director Jeni Caffin said 70% of people at this year's festival travelled from outside the area.

Topics:  bluesfest boomerang festival byron bay writers festival festival splendour in the grass

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