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SXSW 2022 economic impact estimated at $280.7 million for Austin

The festival said the average spending per attendee was up around 25% compared to 2019 but economic impact is down 21%.

AUSTIN, Texas — On Wednesday, South by Southwest (SXSW), along with its partners at Greyhill Advisors, released the findings of its economic impact report for the 2022 festival. This year, that impact was estimated at $280.7 million.

That's $75 million less than 2019, a 21% drop in economic impact. Looking at past years, data shows this year had the lowest economic impact since 2014:

  • $355.9 million in 2019 
  • $350.6 million in 2018 
  • $348.6 million in 2017 
  • $325.3 million in 2016
  • $317.2 million in 2015 
  • $315 million in 2014
  • $218 million in 2013

This year was the first in-person SXSW since the pandemic started in 2019.

A Greyhill Advisors consultant said there was only a 9% drop in attendance compared to 2019. The festival saw the most significant dip in attendance during the interactive portion. There were 6,900 fewer official registrants in 2022 vs. 2019.

The economic consultant said corporations usually make up a large portion of the interactive registrants, which could mean corporation attendance was not as high. He said those groups typically bring in a lot of money. 

The consultant said it is important to remember in March, traveling was still questionable because of COVID-19 and a chunk of corporations were still working from home.

“We celebrate the return to Austin of SXSW and its unique energy that showcases the arts, live music and technologies of the future,” said Mayor Steve Adler. “SXSW captures why and how this city has become home to and attracts the most innovative and creative people. And once again, our local businesses and creatives were able to enjoy the support that SXSW brings.”

SXSW categorized that total into three buckets:

  • Attendance: $164.8 million – Official attendance impact includes expenditures by SXSW credentialed participants and single ticket holders at all SXSW events.
  • Operational: $78.4 million – The scale and complexity of SXSW requires year-round operations. SXSW maintains a sizable staff of full-time, temporary and seasonal workers.
  • Partner: $37.5 million – Partner impact includes expenditures by SXSW exhibitors and sponsors as well as official events and activations hosted by SXSW and third parties.

According to SXSW, the 2022 festival booked more than 10,000 individual hotel reservations, totaling more than 45,500 nightly stays in local hotel rooms. These direct bookings alone generated close to $1.8 million in hotel occupancy tax revenues for the City of Austin.

The festival also added that the average spending per attendee was around 25% higher than in 2019.

"Returning to an in-person SXSW this past March for the first time since 2019 was so special on so many levels,” said Hugh Forrest, chief programming officer and partner at SXSW. “We were especially excited to see the crowds return to explore all the conference and festivals had to offer after being cooped up for so long. This year's event was a huge success for the organization and for the city of Austin. While the anticipation of 2022 will be hard to top, we are thrilled to be producing an even stronger experience this coming March."


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