By ERWIN CHLANDA
The NT Government is pressing ahead with the second Parrtjima Festival in Light, for 11 days from September 22, spending $2m.
Andrew Hopper, General Manager of Northern Territory Major Events Company, estimates that half of this amount will go interstate.
He pronounced last year’s free-of-charge event as a success, with nearly 16,000 people through the gates, including 3244 tourists.
He says a total audience of nearly 35 million people have been told about the event by “traditional media – based on reach as advised by publications and channels”.
In addition, 185,006 people were counted on “organic reach on social media – sourced from social media analytics”.
However, Mr Hopper declined our request to release details of a survey visitors were encouraged to participate in because, he says, the results are “commercial in confidence”.
“We operate in a competitive tourism market,” he said, but did not explain who is likely to stage an event in opposition without the government copping almost the entire cost.
Chief Minister Michael Gunner has made it clear that he will honour agreements made by his predecessor, Adam Giles, such as Parrtjima.
The hype for this year’s event has started with a media release very similar to last year’s: “The spectacular free public event is the first authentic Indigenous light festival of its kind and showcases the oldest continuous culture on earth through the newest technology, on a 300-million-year-old natural canvas.”
Mr Hopper confirmed that there are cancellation clauses in the agreement, but he said these are also commercial in confidence.
So far, “as a guess”, some 10% to 15% of this year’s budget has already been spent, he says.
The only details available about visitor responses were statements, released by Mr Hopper, from a report by the survey company Nielson:
• 72% of attendees stayed between one and two hours.
• Support for the local community was the biggest driver of attendance – 62%.
• Word of mouth, Facebook and newspaper / magazine articles / advertisements were the main drivers of awareness.
• More than 67% of attendees rode the free public bus to the event.
• 56% of people said the experience at the event was better than expected.
• Sound quality received a low score among individual event elements and was frequently commented on in the open ended responses as well.
Additional event elements noted in the Nielson Report as requiring attention included:
• Providing a wider variety of food offerings
• Shortening bus queues
• More showmanship
• More seating
• Artists available to answer questions
• Additional art installations
• Make the lights on the Range brighter
• More interactive experiences
• Actually projecting artworks onto the Ranges – Mr Hopper says this is not achievable as identified the consultation process.
Additional event elements noted in the Nielson Report as being strengths included:
• The showcase of local indigenous art.
• Hands on interaction with the displays.
• Great family event.
• The entire range of light displays, particularly across the ranges – stunning.
Mr Hopper says: “One of the very important elements for any major event is the perception of visitors for the location as a result of attending the event.
“With 62% of people having an improved visitor perception of Alice Springs (Nielson Report) as a result of attending the event the outcome is positive, especially considering the most recent media coverage for Alice Springs.
“These people all become important advocates for not only the event but the destination.”