More than social impact?
WRITER: Dr Sunny Lee
Multicultural festivals have emerged in many contexts to celebrate culture, community and harmony. While the social role of multicultural festivals is generally well-recognised, associated benefits are easily overlooked.
Some may not see the difference between multicultural festivals and other local community festivals, but the significance of a multicultural festival is that it has positive effects that reach further than just the local community.
According to Tourism Research Australia, 2.6 million international visitors in Australia—representing 51% of all overseas visitors to Australia in 2009—participated in at least one cultural activity during their trip, with one of the popular activities being attending cultural festivals and events.
Multicultural festivals as a form of festival can be a core attraction for visitors and can make a community or destination more desirable to visit.
Multicultural festivals respect and appreciate all cultures. And in doing so, they help create strong images of the community as a multicultural society. It is important for a society to have a positive multicultural image as this can have flow on effects for the tourism industry, the education industry and other trades. For example, if a destination is linked to racial discrimination, its tourism trade will be negatively influenced.
For Australia, ethnicities provide a firm foundation for building tourism. As many tourists travel to Australia to visit friends and family, positive word of mouth from these experiences can influence others’ travel choices. As part of their experiences, a successful multicultural festival can be quite an effective influencer.
Even though many festivals are relatively small and local, they still have the power to attract international capital through sponsorship. They also offer ethnic minorities a place for celebration, participation, and cultural expression. Such festivals are important for ethnic minorities, their friends and families, and consequently have the potential to become strong tourist attractions.
Festivals are also able to attract financial and in-kind support, from both domestic businesses and international corporations. Local community festivals usually rely on support from local government or local or national corporations. And while many multicultural festivals are locally-based, many still seem to be able to secure support from international corporations, particularly from countries that are associated with the festival. Attracting international sponsors for multicultural festivals is especially meaningful, as they can greatly extend the exposure of the event, and particularly to international audiences.
Multicultural festivals also provide a great opportunity for sponsors to enhance their reputation as being community-oriented or working for the public good, which makes sponsoring a festival a sound business move.
Many businesses today include event sponsorship as part of their corporate social responsibilities. This makes multicultural festivals important to potential domestic and international sponsors.
As multicultural festivals have emerged to respond to the needs of developing multiculturalism in communities, they represent more than just entertainment and personal interest. Specifically, event sponsorships can raise visibility in the global market, to create or strengthen access to diverse cultural markets, establish goodwill, and enhance an organisation’s reputation for being community-oriented and caring about cultural diversity.
Top reasons to sponsor a multicultural festival include:
- Enhancing the corporation's community-oriented image.
- Heightening the business' visibility.
- Building or strengthening access to diverse cultural markets.
A festival’s target market is more likely to respond in a favourable and immediate manner if the event sponsors are culturally aligned with the festival; there is greater loyalty and attachment to multicultural events when such ties exist.
The Adelaide Festival Centre's OzAsia Festival—an Asian festival that celebrates the rich artistic and cultural traditions of Asia—is a perfect example of a successful multicultural festival.
Drawing on the local community's attention to multiculturalism, it builds a positive image for both Adelaide and Australia. Such a positive image is communicated to potential tourists, buyers and consumers domestically and internationally, and has attracted sponsorship partners, such as local businesses, Santos and UniSA, as well as Asia-based international corporations, Singapore Airlines and Sapporo. These endorsements enhance the festival’s credibility and authenticity among participants.
For the Asian Century, multicultural festivals should be used more effectively to attract foreign capital by drawing in additional tourists and international sponsors from Asia.
The development of multi-cultural festivals is essential in order to create an inclusive and welcoming environment for tourists and international corporations alike. Enrich a destination’s image through a multicultural society, and the rewards can be significant.
Dr Sunny Lee is a researcher with UniSA's Centre for Tourism and Leisure Management. Her research interests include the social impacts of multicultural festivals, destination branding and regional development.
> For more information, visit the Centre for Tourism and Leisure Management