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95% BACK TO FESTIVAL (article first published : 2002-05-11)

95% of the people who attended the National Arts Festival in 2001 said they would b e likely to return to the Festival in the future and 98% said they would recommend it to friends and family. These are two of the findings of a survey commissioned by the National Arts Festival last year.

The research was conducted to provide information on demographic profiles and general Festival experiences of attendees at the 2001 National Arts Festival. The dual method of face-to-face interviews and self-completion questionnaires was used to extract this information.

Festival director Lynette Marais says, on average, attendees had been to 5.3 previous festivals, indicating that they tend to be a regular as opposed to occasional audience. "23.3% said they were visiting the Festival for the first time, with about the same number having been once or twice before. A further quarter had attended between 3 and 6 times previously and nearly 13% had been 7 to 10 times before."

"Findings showed that on average, attendees consisted of slightly more women than men and were 74% English speaking," adds Marais. "However, the cultural make-up of attendees seems to be becoming more diverse when compared to studies from the 80's and 90's. The average age is increasing, with the two largest age groups being those up to the age of 25 and those between 36 and 50 representing 32% and 27% respectively. Surprisingly, the age group 26 to 35 years old, made up only 16%."

According to the study, approximately 40% of attendees are employed in professional or managerial posts with 60% having, or currently studying for, a university degree. "In addition, an enormous 98% of attendees were aware of the sponsors, demonstrating sponsor awareness," she adds.

She continues, "91% of attendees were South African, 48% of those from the Eastern Cape region. One in five came from Grahamstown, the next largest being the Eastern Cape being the Port Elizabeth/Uitenhage area with 13%, East London/Bishu 9% and other towns 4%. The 9% of non-South African attendees originate from a number of countries, the major ones being UK 2% and Germany 2%."

She said on average, 1.7 ticketed shows were attended by each person a day, about 0.6 free performances and one art exhibition or craft market was visited. "The average attendee stayed for 5.9 days and 5.4 nights, a considerable period in an 11 day festival. 12% were day trippers, with about a quarter staying for one to three days, a further quarter for four to six days and the remainder for longer."

"The Main shows were rated as good value in terms of both quality and price, the average rating out of 5 being 4.1. Fringe shows were also rated highly in value, with an average of 3.9 out of 5," she adds.

"The study showed the most popular form of accommodation to be staying with friends or relatives, with 24% of attendees going that route," continues Marais. "The next most popular accommodation types were university residences, then rented houses or flats, allowed by bed and breakfast establishments. All forms of accommodation, with the exception of backpacking facilities, rated on average 3.3 or higher out of 5 in terms of value for money. 29% of attendees rated their accommodation quality excellent and only 8.5% rated it poor or very poor."

Attendees spent an average of R470 per day at the Festival, the largest percentage of this being on accommodation, followed by shopping and shows. She says the studies breakdown of languages of attendees is as follows: 4% Xhosa, 76% English, 13% Afrikaans and 7% other language groups. "While only 4% were Xhosa, this might be due in part to the questionnaire being in English, thus not encouraging non-English speakers to complete it. Of the 7% other language attendees, 76% were black African language groups. Additionally, 22% of attendees were black, 66% white, 8% coloured and 4% made up other race groups, 28.6% Asian and 71.4% Indian people."

"The study showed that the festival provides a valuable cultural and economic resource, not only to Grahamstown and its residents, but to the Eastern Cape area as a whole, bringing in some R35 million annually," concludes Marais. "The Festival makes a significant contribution to economic development for the Eastern Cape bringing thousands of visitors to the region, boosting the local economy and playing a vital role in nurturing local talent."

The survey, Consumer Research: A survey of visitors at the 2001 National Arts Festival, Grahamstown was completed by J D Snowball and G G Antrobus, Department of Economics, Rhodes University.




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