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A Contemporary Approach to Festivals

Events are increasingly organized to foster economic development at the destination (Getz 2008); however, the growing number and diversity of events have led to strong competition among destinations (Nicholson and Pearce 2001). Thereby, event management is a fast growing professional field, and tourists’ interests play an important role in the planning of events. At the same time, the tourism industry has become a vital stakeholder in the success and appeal of such events (Getz 2008). Today, special events, such as festivals, are playing an integral role as a constant and core component of destination marketing strategies (Hede 2005). It is a fact that hallmark sports events utilize the global media more than other types of events to broadcast images of the tourist destination (Groves et al. 2003) which also requires big capital and huge investments in the city. On the other hand, for traveling sports fans, attributes associated with the sport itself may be more important than those of the host destination (Walker et al. 2013). Unlike hallmark sports events, small events require minimal capital investment and can take advantage of existing infrastructure (Gursoy et al. 2004) to draw tourists to the destination. Nevertheless, mainstream media and the general public are generally unaware of the arts’ component of the major events, or do not have an interest in it (Garcia 2004). So, the decision of what kind of event to host at a particular destination should be taken after assessing the pros and cons of such an event.

Festivals and special events are both the consequence and the signifiers of the cultural identity of the space within which they occur (Elias-Varotsis 2006). A festival having such a social and cultural dimension holds a powerful appeal for tourists and has a major impact on creating or enhancing the image of the destination (Ozdemir and ?ulha 2009). During festivals, visitors set aside their normal routines for a time and celebrate those aspects of their culture that gives meaning to their lives (Delamere and Hinch 1994). Festivals as formal programs of pleasurable activities and entertainment have a festive character and publicly celebrate some concept, happening, or fact (Janiskee 1980: 97). Festivals, therefore, represent an invaluable source of knowledge about the folklore, history, philosophy, aesthetics, music, dance, art, and the myths of the region in which they take place (Owusu-Frempong 2005). Nevertheless, festivals help reproduce local knowledge and recreate the history, cultural inheritance, and social structures that distinguish one place from another (Ekman 1999). In this sense, festivals have the potential of enabling communities to interpret and reinterpret their cultural identity through the experience they portray (Elias-Varotsis 2006). Additionally, Felsenstein and Fleischer (2003) explain the benefits of a festival as being influential in presenting local cultural traditions and customs to visitors and, by so doing, preserving and diffusing the local heritage. Special events like festivals also generate a variety of economic activities and attract many diverse types of attendees and visitors in a highly concentrated time frame (Warnick et al. 2015). Yet, according to Prentice and Andersen (2003), the drawing power of festivals should not be overstated. However, in the context of international festivals and events, motivations may not be homogeneous between domestic and foreign visitors, indicating differentiation of their marketing strategies (Lee et al. 2004).

As Prentice and Andersen (2003) imply, the recent explosion in festival numbers is manifold in cause, ranging from supply issues (such as cultural planning, tourism development, and civic repositioning) to demand issues (such as serious leisure, lifestyle sampling, socialization needs, and the desire for creative and “authentic” experiences by some market segments). Larson (2002) also points out that the promotion of a festival is a multi-purpose task and aims at serving a number of interests. Tourism promotion through events may have a tangible economic benefit, but there are also intangible benefits such as building a presence in specific markets (Connell and Page 2005). Other reasons to organize a festival are (Quinn 2005, 2006; Delamere and Hinch 1994):

  • • To extend the length of visitors’ stay;
  • • To create new forms of demand;
  • • To create new sources of box office income;
  • • To enhance the image and heighten the reputation of a destination;
  • • To generate community pride; and
  • • To promote social interaction, togetherness/sharing of ideas, community identity, and community wellness.

Blichfeldt and Halkier (2014) also define signature events to be well suited to contribute to the branding of a particular locality. Nevertheless, events occurring regularly in the same location may gradually become so closely associated with the identity of the place in which they are held that become a driver for place branding (Della Lucia 2013).

The nature of festivals and special events is likely to offer both functional and experiential attributes (Gursoy et al. 2006: 280). For successful festival management and marketing, understanding festival visitors’ experience is imperative to festival organizers because visitor satisfaction directly influences the future success of the festival (Cole and Illum 2006). Indeed, as Yuan et al. (2008) have stressed, the decision to visit a destination or to attend a festival is affected by previous experiences and the degree of satisfaction with these experiences. Consequently, not only does quality affect perceptions of value and satisfaction, it also directly influences future behavioral intentions (Cronin et al. 2000). On the other hand, people may decide not to attend a festival if they did not receive the psychological benefits they sought, no matter how highly the quality of the festival was perceived by attendees (Cole and Illum 2006). Therefore, recognizing the importance of repeat patronage at festivals, local organizations should work on their promotion strategies focusing on the affective elements of the festivals (Huang et al. 2010). In this regard, event managers should pay attention to improve festivalscape, food, fun, and comfort to improve participants’ emotional experience (Mason and Paggiaro 2012). Festivalscape thus refers to the way participants perceive the festival, through both functionality and affection (Darden and Babin 1994). Hence, powerful impact of a festival program is rooted in the hedonic attributes (e.g., fun, interesting, happy) in creating memorable experience (Yoon et al. 2010).

 
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