Economic impact of 2012 SXSW totals $190 million


by ASHLEY GOUDEAU / KVUE News and Photojournalist JOHN FISHER

Bio | Email | Follow: @AshleyG_KVUE

Posted on October 4, 2012 at 6:18 PM

Updated Wednesday, Oct 30 at 8:32 AM

AUSTIN -- When South by Southwest (SXSW) kicked off 26 years ago there were just 700 people registered to attend. It's a time SXSW Executive Director Mike Shea remembers well.

"Back in the early days, there was just a dozen or so of us putting the whole thing together, and it was a nightmare," said Shea. "There was a lot of late, late nights and early, early mornings."

Fast-forward to March 2012, the music, interactive and film festivals brought 302,000 people to Austin -- the largest crowd to date. When those thousands of people come to Central Texas, they spend millions of dollars.

"They really bring a lot of people from all over the world to our city. That's got to have a good effect, and that really can't be quantified. You can't put a number on that," said Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell. 

Maybe the mayor can't put a number on it, but Greyhill Advisors can. Greyhill Advisors Partner Ben Loftsgaarden made the announcement Thursday.

"In 2012, South by Southwest injected approximately $190 million into the local Austin economy," Loftsgaarden said.

According to Greyhill Advisers, $117 million of those dollars came from people visiting Austin. That includes the money they spend on hotels, food and transportation, and the people Austin businesses have to hire to prepare for the crowds.

The other $73 million comes from SXSW itself and the employees the company hires to put on the festival.

Just to put things into perspective, the last Superbowl brought in $155 million to the city of Indianapolis compared to SXSW's $190 million. Still, that $190 million number is only a fraction of the money spent.

"Anything that's not sanctioned by SXSW is not included in this study. So the impact is likely far, far greater, and if you were to ask some local restaurants or bar owners or taxi cab drivers, they would see an impact that's far greater," said Loftsgaarden. 

It's an impact that is only expected to grow as SXSW gets bigger and better.

Click here to see the full Greyhill Advisors report.