Destination Wollongong forecasts $56m from festivals in 2017-18 financial year

FLASHBACK: A food van at the Yours and Owls festival in Stuart Park in North Wollongong 2016. Picture: Adam McLean

FLASHBACK: A food van at the Yours and Owls festival in Stuart Park in North Wollongong 2016. Picture: Adam McLean

The Illawarra is quickly becoming an entertainment destination to rival big sister Sydney with an influx of festivals popping up, bringing with them millions of dollars.

Destination Wollongong supported 28 major events in the local government area over the past financial year, collectively contributing $48.8 million to the local economy – up $9.1 million on the previous year.

For the 12 months to June 2018, 34 major events are scheduled across adventure, the arts, innovation, sport, food and beverage – forecast to bring in $56 million to the economy.

Read more: Hockey Dad, oysters and a pool at Berry’s Fairgrounds festival

“[Events] give people a reason to commit to a destination and once they have been here for the event they are far more inclined to come back again for leisure travel,” general manager Mark Sleigh said.

“People who come to festivals fill their cars up at petrol stations, buy newspapers, they might get their hair done. There is no business that does not benefit from a rise in visitor numbers.

Wollongong tourism boss Mark Sleigh. Picture: Greg Ellis.

Wollongong tourism boss Mark Sleigh. Picture: Greg Ellis.

“But arguably more important is the opportunity to change perceptions of Wollongong.”

Two decades ago some might have been hesitant to walk through the Crown Street Mall at night, but now people are coming in droves “for the right reasons”.

Read more: All you need to know about the Anywhere Theatre Festival

Mr Sleigh said the key to keeping the events program fresh with long-term sustainability was diversification.

“If you were to roll out similar content, week after week, there is no doubt that the market would lose interest,” he said.

“But by changing the focus from music to food and beverage to arts and culture, different groups will engage and the events program will continue to grow.”

It comes as two new festivals have been announced for September and October – Taste Orange food and wine festival in the heart of Wollongong and the Festival of Wood artisan show at Bulli Showground.

Other events still to round out 2017 include: music at Yours and Owls and Kiama’s Folk By The Sea; arts and culture at the Wollongong Fringe, Viva La Gong and Sculptures at Killalea; literary greats at the Wollongong Writers Festival and the Thirroul Readers and Writers Festival; family friendly entertainment at Fairgrounds; comedy, burlesque, theatre and circus at the Anywhere Theatre Festival (on now); a Beach Netball festival; and engines roaring at Harley Days, to name a few.

Read more: Food and wine show to precede Elton John concert

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