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Experience economy fuels resort festival rise

An ever-growing desire for the experiential has given way to a destination festival boom, with resorts proving the site of choice for organisers and fans alike

By Anna Grace on 14 Oct 2019

Experience economy fuels resort festival rise

Mainstage Festivals' Kala takes place on an Albanian holiday resort


For decades, grassy and often muddy fields have been the setting for music festivals worldwide, but as the overall festival experience has crept ever higher on fans’ priority lists, different kinds of sites have begun to catch the eye of festival organisers.

From snowy slopes to golden sands, resorts offer the unique selling point and quality infrastructure desired by organisers, as well as appealing to the experiential tendencies of the millennial festivalgoer.

“People’s tastes have changed,” Gareth Cooper, CEO of Broadwick Live and director of Snowbombing festival tells IQ, adding that people in general “have more disposable income” and often view a festival as a “second holiday” nowadays.

Starting 21 years ago as an après-ski party, Snowbombing has evolved into a week-long live music event. The line-up for Snowbombing 2020, taking place from 13 to 18 April, includes Liam Gallagher, the Streets, Foals and Big Narstie.

Mainstage Festivals-promoted Snowboxx (6,000-cap.) also takes its inspiration from the traditional partying aspect of ski holidays.

“We all know that après is the real reason why people go skiing,” says Mainstage marketing manager Juan Lopez. “Sipping a cold one after a day on the slopes is the perfect way to unwind, but there is not much to do on the mountain after that.”

“People’s tastes have changed and they have more disposable income”

To counter that, Snowboxx has brought artists such as Basement Jaxx, Wilkinson and Craig David’s TS5 to Avoriaz in France for the past seven years, alongside a “jam-packed schedule of off-piste activities”. Acts confirmed for the 2020 edition, taking place from 21 to 18 March, include Andy C, Annie Mac, the Sugarhill Gang and Denis Sulta.

Anthony Diaz, CEO of cruise festival specialist Sixthman, agrees that the idea of a combined holiday and music festival is really “resonating” with fans.

In addition to its many “floating festivals”, Sixthman has recently experimented with seaside resort festivals, launching Kid Rock’s Flying High Island Jam and All the Best presented by John Prine at boutique resorts in the Dominican Republic, with further plans to replicate the model in European resorts.

“People are choosing to invest more and more in experiences, rather than in material things, including in immersive music experiences and in vacations,” Diaz tells IQ. “The combination of being on vacation with your musical heroes and with others that share that same passion, it’s unbeatable.”

Fans have also shown an eagerness to travel to new places for festivals in recent years, a fact that the Mainstage Festivals team is well aware of. The idea behind the promoter’s Kala festival, which takes place in Dhërmi, a beach resort on the Albanian Riviera, is to introduce festivalgoers to a holiday location they are unlikely to have visited before.

“The Kala crowd is looking for new experiences and new adventures, so somewhere as beautiful and off the beaten path as Albania ticks all the boxes for them,” says Lopez, who refers to Albania as “Europe’s best kept secret”.

“The combination of being on vacation with your musical heroes and with others that share that same passion, it’s unbeatable”

Since Kala started in 2017, there has been a 27% increase in foreign tourists to Albania and, although the event organisers cannot take “full credit” for that, Kala is now the “flagship event” for Albania. “It’s the country’s first and biggest overseas festival and we look forward to growing along with the broader tourism industry over there,” says Mainstage CEO Rob Tominey.

For the Mainstage boss, cooperation with tourist boards is an integral aspect to overseas festivals, “not only to promote the festivals, but also to showcase the local culture.”

Broadwick’s Snowbombing, which has taken place every April at Austria’s Mayrhofen ski resort since 2006, also collaborates closely with local tourism boards and tour operators, as well as the resort’s management.

“We turn what would traditionally be the quietest week of the season into one of the busiest,” explains Cooper. “It’s an end-of-season boost for the local economy and brings very good clientele to the resort – the kind who come to socialise and make use of bars and restaurants.”

However, a festival in a resort, by its very nature, costs more for the fan. Accommodation for five nights at Snowbombing is priced between £269 and £1,500, in addition to equipment hire, ski pass and transport to and from the festival.

“We could go cheaper and use a resort in France,” admits Cooper, but “that’s not the quality we’re looking for.”

It seems that cheap and cheerful is not what Snowbombing attendees are after either, with four-star hotels, complete with swimming pools and spas, proving the most popular accommodation choice.

“When you have the right destination, people just want to go”

Quality is key for Sixthman’s event too. Guests can choose between different suites at the resort, with all concerts, meals, alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks included in the price, as well as unlimited use of the resort’s swimming pools and beaches.

Despite high-end prices, Sixthman does not attempt to tier pricing or up-sell fans with VIP packages or events. “All our guests are VIP,” says Diaz, which helps foment a “positive”, community-like feeling among fans.

Yet, for Mainstage, cheaper prices are one of the draws of its destination-based events.

“There are a number of benefits to attending a festival abroad vs in the UK,” says Tominey. “The costs can often be more favourable with cheaper ticket prices as well as cheaper costs while there.

Even at Snowboxx, the Mainstage team tries to keep the price low, “steering clear of all-inclusive deals” and negotiating with hotels.

“We’ve seen in the past how accommodation and transfer prices have spiked around destination festivals, after a few years of them being in the location,” says Tominey. The Snowboxx team offers seven-day accommodation and festival wristband packages for between £254 (three star) and £442 (five star).

The most important aspect of this new kind of festival, however, remains the same for all. As Cooper puts it: “When you have the right destination, people just want to go.”

 


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