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Stratford Festival’s economic impact pegged at incredible $276.7 million


New study shows festival’s tremendous impact on local economy

STRATFORD, ON. March 18, 2024The Stratford Festival was founded in 1952 to provide stimulus to a failing local economy, one suffering from the closure of its main industry, rail repair. Many thought the idea that a Shakespeare festival could revive an economy was pure folly, but since the first season in the summer of 1953, the Stratford Festival has welcomed more than 29.7 million visitors and sold more than $1 billion worth of tickets. Is is no surprise that the impact on the economy has been tremendous and hugely contributed to the vibrancy of the city of Stratford today.

A major catalyst for economic activity in the city of Stratford

Fanfare musicians at Stratford Festival photo by Krista Dodson

Today, the Festival is a not-for-profit charitable organization, and its purpose is to spark human imagination through the art of live theatre. At the same time, it remains a catalyst for economic activity in the city of Stratford.

This past season, the Festival commissioned a new economic impact study to gain an accurate picture of just how much the Festival contributes to the economy of the city, province and country. Undertaken by Sport Tourism Canada, in partnership with the Canadian Tourism Research Institute and the Conference Board of Canada, the study found that the Festival’s economic impact is approximately $276.7 million.

The economic impact data tracks direct visitor spending and does not include the residual impact to industries like construction. For instance, the building of the new Tom Patterson Theatre and the construction and renovation of hotels and other services would add to the economic impact but were not measured in this study.

For 2023, the Festival generated local spending of $147.3 million, up 11% from the previous study, which was done in 2017.

Some highlights of Festival visitor spending include the following: 

  • Restaurants: $24.4 million
  • Other food and groceries: $2.4 million
  • Accommodations: $12.3 million
  • Retail/Shopping: $10.5 million
  • Non-Stratford Festival entertainment and recreation: $8.5 million 

The study found that 46% of out-of-town attendees stayed overnight in Stratford and the average stay was three nights. The overall importance of the Festival in influencing a visit to Stratford was 9.7/10, with 83% of attendees indicating that the Festival was their sole reason for visiting Stratford.

The study also found that in 2023 the Festival supported roughly $46.2 million in federal, provincial and local taxes through direct and spin-off effects throughout Canada.

Inside the Stratford Festival’s Festival Theatre, photo by Erin Samuell

The Festival supports 1,466 full-time-equivalent jobs, 1,038 of those in Stratford. The total of local wages and salaries is approximately $95.3 million. The nationwide total for salaries and wages is pegged at $121.7 million.

The figures provide a good news story for the community and indicate that the Festival continues to play a primary role in driving the local economy. The whimsical enterprise that began in 1953 has proven transformational for the people of Stratford.

Final thoughts

It is no mystery that the Stratford Festival has been a massive contributor to the now flourishing city. In fact, these days Stratford is certainly one of the most beautiful towns in Ontario, if not ‘the’ most beautiful, with its combination of stunningly gorgeous historical buildings, its picturesque river Avon, magnificent gardens, vibrant dining and nightlife, and of course, world class theatrical productions.

If, you have never been to Stratford, it is truly worth the visit, to experience the quality of stage production and performances as well as this gem of an Ontario city, just a 1.5 hour drive from Toronto. You will not be disappointed!

lead photo Stratford Festival Theatre in spring photo by Krista Dodson

by Terry Lankstead with extensive notes from Stratford Festival

Other articles from totimes.ca – otttimes.ca – mtltimes.ca

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