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A panel discussion at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah

With $118 Million at Stake, Sundance Goes Out to Bid

As destinations consider the financial benefits of winning the bid to host the Sundance Film Festival come 2027, planners are reminded of the importance of understanding their events’ economic-impact numbers.

Everyone knows it’s expensive to go to the movies these days, but for Park City, Utah, the question may be how much it costs not to go. That is, what will it mean to the city if it loses the Sundance Film Festival?

The Sundance Institute, which runs the event, announced on April 17 that after more than 40 years in Park City, it has issued a request for information in order to consider other destinations. Its long-term contract with the city expires in 2026.

According to KUTV, Sundance draws about 21,000 people each year and, citing a report from Y2 Analytics, “the festival is worth $118 million to Utah's gross domestic product,” not counting spending by sponsors.

Those economic-impact numbers will weigh on Park City and other destinations as they consider their bids.  But whether planners are sourcing a destination for a 10-day, star-studded event like Sundance or a 500-person regional conference, understanding the event’s financial implications for a destination is a smart bargaining chip.

The key factors that go into an economic-impact assessment are the number of attendees, the number of days, the average spending per visitor, and a multiplier that accounts for the indirect and induced economic impacts. The multiplier varies based on the type of event, the state of the economy, the destination, and other factors.  Beyond “heads in beds,” destinations want to understand whether a group will stimulate local businesses, increase tourism, contribute to the community, and so on.

One resource for economic-impact information is Destinations International, a professional organization that represents destination organizations and convention and visitor bureaus. More than 300 member organizations subscribe to DI’s event-impact calculator, a tool that measures impacts of events on businesses, employment, income, and taxes, and is localized to the subscriber’s destination.

For Sundance and its $118 million impact, the RFI process ends May 1, the request for proposal period runs May 1 through June 21, and a final decision is expected by the first quarter of 2025 at the latest. 


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