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Online calculator tracks economic impact of events

Professor Jen Snowball, chief research strategist at SACO.

Professor Jen Snowball, chief research strategist at SACO.

The South African Cultural Observatory (SACO), a research entity of the Department of Arts and Culture, has developed the online South African Festival Economic Impact Calculator to track the economic impact of local events.

Targeted at local festival and event organisers, the tool estimates the financial impact of the event on the economy of the host town or city, says SACO. It was developed by two cultural economists: Professor Bruce Seaman from Georgia State University, Atlanta, Georgia, and Professor Jen Snowball, chief research strategist at SACO and an economics lecturer at Rhodes University.

"The free online calculator has been carefully and conservatively designed and tested to produce reliable and valid results. It works similarly to a bank bond affordability calculator, where you input a series of data and in the end the calculator puts out a final summary of information. In this case, the data is about the event," notes Professor Richard Haines, CEO of SACO.

The calculator, he adds, reports on three key elements of economic impact: total spending on accommodation; total amount spent by the organisers in the host economy, and the actual economic impact, including the multiplier effect on the host economy.

Snowball says: "While it won't provide the same level of detail as a survey and impact study done for that specific event, it will provide a realistic estimate of what the economic impact is. An added bonus is that the results can be used in feedback to communities and sponsors."

Driven by data, the calculator requires a festival or event to provide a minimum of seven pieces of information, such as: the number of days the event is run over; the population of the host city or town; the total number of attendees; the average visitor spend on accommodation, etc.

"Until now, the only way to estimate the economic impact of an event was to run an expensive visitor survey and employ a researcher to analyse the data and calculate the impact, so the calculator offers a reliable way of estimating economic impact at no cost to the organisation," adds Snowball.

SACO is hosting a workshop on 23 May to empower events and festival organisers with the knowledge and skills to use the calculator.

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