Key Concepts in Event Management


Bernadette Quinn

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  • The SAGE Key Concepts Series

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    The SAGE Key Concepts series provides students with accessible and authoritative knowledge of the essential topics in a variety of disciplines. Cross-referenced throughout, the format encourages critical evaluation through understanding. Written by experienced and respected academics, the books are indispensable study aids and guides to comprehension.


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    About the Author

    Bernadette Quinn has a PhD in Human Geography from University College Dublin. She currently lectures and researches in the Department of Tourism at the Dublin Institute of Technology. The nature and meaning of festivals and festivity in contemporary society is one of her key research interests and her work on the topic has been published in a number of international journals including Urban Studies, Social and Cultural Geography, Tourism Geographies, Event Management and the Journal of Policy Research in Tourism, Leisure and Events. Other research interests include the relationship between culture and tourism, leisure and social inclusion and contemporary forms of tourism mobility. Publications on these topics have appeared in the Annals of Tourism Research, Gender, Place and Culture and Leisure Studies as well as in various edited book collections. Her teaching interests mirror her research interests and she is involved in undergraduate and postgraduate tourism management and event management programmes teaching modules related to cultural tourism, international festival environments, tourism studies, and tourism and event policy.


    My long-standing interest in festivals and events has been shaped by many people, both practitioners and academics, over the years. These people are too many to mention by name, but I owe all of them a debt of gratitude. While writing this book I was very fortunate to be able to draw on the expertise of colleagues, particularly Lucy Horan and Ruth Craggs, as well as the support and encouragement of my other colleagues at the Dublin Institute of Technology. Finally, a huge thank you to John, Muireann and Aoife for absolutely everything.


    In 1991, Getz wrote that festivals and holiday events represented nouveau, alternative tourism (cited in Lee et al., 2008). How times have changed! Such an assertion is simply unimaginable today when, more than 20 years later, finding a city or town without at least one annual festival or planned event would be quite a challenge. Does this constitute progress? How do festivals and events contribute to contemporary society? What has the remarkable rise in festivals and events meant for the development of tourism destinations; for the development of economies, be they local, national or international? These and many other questions preoccupy what is now an extremely large, international community of scholars from a range of disciplines who adopt a variety of research approaches to study the complex and profoundly important communal celebrations at the heart of the diverse festivals and events treated in this volume.

    While it is difficult to calculate the size of festival and event activity, academic, policy and industry commentators everywhere concur that its recent growth across the world in terms of numbers, diversity and popularity has been enormous (Getz, 1991; Finkel, 2009; Thrane, 2002). In the USA it is estimated that there were 10,000 festivals per year, attracting over 31 million visitors by the mid-1990s (Janiskee, 1996; TIA, 2004). In Australia, the government notes that festivals have become ubiquitous, with hundreds being held every year (Australian Government, 2012). In Europe, the growth has been similarly dramatic. According to the International Festival and Event Association (IFEA), the special events industry is estimated to comprise between 4 and 5 million regularly occurring events (Wood, 2012). This significant growth in the practice of festivals and events brought a parallel increase in the emergence and development of the festival and event management profession. It soon also brought a rise in academic interest: closely allied to the development of tourism studies, academics began to take an interest in charting developments in the sector and the literature has burgeoned over the last 20 years. Much of the research is published in tourism studies and specific event-oriented journals, but it also finds expression in a wide range of journals dedicated to management and marketing, urban and place studies, arts and cultural policy, as well as many social sciences-oriented journals. In the majority of cases, festivals and special events are presented as broadly positive phenomena. Throughout the literature, opening paragraphs emphasise the important roles they play in advancing local and regional economies, branding places, attracting visitors, extending the tourism season and fostering community spirit. Yet, festivals and special events, the subject matter at the heart of this book represent a very substantial, complex and dynamic set of activities that can be both deeply rooted and rapidly changing in countries throughout the world. In academia, they are studied from diverse management, social sciences and humanities perspectives. As such, interpretations of their impact and contribution to contemporary economies and societies as well as approaches to valuing, managing and shaping appropriate policies for their advancement are multiple and at times conflicting.

    The literature in the field is now enormous and growing all the time. Increasing familiarity with the literature brings an increasing awareness of the unevenness of knowledge, the fractures between academic disciplines and the continuous emergence of new sub-fields. The literature on the Olympic Games, for example, is now in and of itself very substantial, yet the extent to which knowledge generated on this particular event translates across into the study of other events that differ by scale and type is very unclear. Getz and Andersson (2010) explained that festival tourism has been studied by many researchers from many perspectives: impact (of varying types), place marketing, travel patterns, displacement effects, motivation, market segmentation, quality and satisfaction, regional development, relationship to urban renewal and development, and links to culture and community. However, this sector is nothing if not dynamic and while knowledge gaps are closing in some areas, they continue to open up elsewhere all the time. This book tries to take cognisance of this dynamism in including concepts that would seem very important in terms of future development. The concept of ‘risk management', so important from an applied perspective, and that of ‘emerging economies', so important from a geographical perspective, are two examples of this.

    This volume is tasked with introducing, defining and reviewing the current state of knowledge of the key concepts in the contemporary study of festivals and events. While this involves reviewing literature that is either part of, or closely associated with, tourism studies, in reality, it is a multi-disciplinary task that draws on a wide breadth of discipline areas. It is well recognised that festivals and special events are important from community, social, cultural, political and economic perspectives. Despite the growth and popularity of festivals and special events, researchers were initially slow in directing research beyond economic impacts and motivations (Gursoy et al., 2004). However, this imbalance is now being corrected. The recent evolution of the academic study of festivals and events cannot be understood in isolation from the simultaneous evolution of the academic study of tourism. As themes of enquiry have emerged and developed within tourism studies, they virtually always evolve into a new theme of enquiry within festival and event studies. This link between the two areas of study is very strong, with tourism studies the primary field of enquiry and festivals and events a large and distinct sub-field within.

    The task of advancing knowledge about the meanings, practices and policies associated with festivals and events remains ongoing. As this volume will show, the understanding of core concepts remains uneven, and our knowledge of certain dimensions of festival and event activity far exceeds that of others. Some of the extant gaps are recent, emerging only when contemporary political and societal debates begin to highlight particular concerns. The concept of innovation is a case in point: questions as to the role that the festival and event sector plays in promoting, adopting and managing innovation are now coming to the fore in the literature. Others, such as the sustainability of the sector's activities have been an issue for longer. Most recently of all, the question as to how festival and event activities are affected by global recession has begun to be investigated, in response to the harsh realities negatively affecting the health of the sector in very recent times. The 35 concepts that are discussed in this volume are laid out in alphabetical order.

  • Conclusion

    This book has tried to bring together a number of the concepts that might reasonably be considered as central to the study of festival and event management. Part of the challenge was to identify how knowledge has been developing over time and to capture and synthesise, in an accessible way, key directions of change. Undoubtedly there are omissions both in this text and in the literature itself. In this conclusion, the intention is to point to some of the omissions noted in the literature and by extension, to point to areas where further research would prove fruitful. The level of research being done in the festival and event field is now extensive, very substantial in terms of size and breadth, and it shows no signs of abating in terms of output. The breadth of knowledge being generated is extending all the time and in ways that are closely and timely attuned to developments in the sector.

    The effect of recession on the health of the sector is an example of a topic that has begun to excite interest recently. Contrary to what might have been expected, the music festival sector in the UK has continued to do well in recession (Warman, 2010). One stimulating factor has been the rise of the ‘staycation' with an increase in the number of people incorporating a festival into their annual holiday. Showing admirable adaptability to changing economic circumstances, many festivals have responded by providing increasingly diverse and sophisticated accommodation (usually camping) options as part of their product offering. However, more generally, as was to be expected, the downturn in the global economy, that began in 2007, has taken its toll on the event sector. Webber et al. (2010) highlighted the negative impact that recession has on the discretionary spending upon which festivals and events depend for survival. Lee and Goldblatt (2012) surveyed members of the International Festival and Events Association to investigate the impact of the recession on the sector currently and into the future. They found that organisations experienced a decline in their profit margins because of decreased sponsorship, the general effect of the recession on all revenue sources and an increase in product/service costs. In terms of moving forward post-recession, securing more sponsorships and diversifying various revenue sources were the strategies that event organisations were planning to use to overcome the challenges posed by the challenging economic environment. As Devine and Devine (2012) pointed out, the immediate post-recession period brings new sets of challenges as governments introduce austerity measures and reduce public spending on sectors including culture and sports. Devine et al. (2012) examined the impact of recession and austerity measures on an event in Northern Ireland, arguing that straightened economic times require event organisations to think ‘outside the box' to address challenges and to work closely with their stakeholders to generate innovative ideas and processes to generate new sources of financing. For the growing number of festivals and events funded by public and local authorities, budget over-runs will meet growing intolerance, as the need for greater accountability and ‘value' in terms of delivery becomes paramount. In this context, some festivals are ceasing to operate, and will continue to cease operating, especially when consumer spending is tempered by economic uncertainties.

    To date, the generation of both theoretical and applied understandings of festival and event activities has relied heavily on empirical investigations in the Western world. Andersson and Getz (2009) reminded us that almost all extant literature pertains to festival management in a small number of Western developed nations. The reality of the sports event industry now is that this seems set to change: the world's emergent economies are increasingly viewing the sector through strategic lens. The academic literature needs to keep pace by investigating environments that clearly embody significant ethnic, cultural, religious, linguistic as well as substantial economic differences in emerging and non-Western nations, as well as in the West. The international spotlight that will shift to South America and to Brazil, in particular, as it hosts two enormous sporting events – the FIFA World Cup (2014) and the Olympic Games (2016) in the near future, will undoubtedly prompt a great deal of event-related research in emerging economy contexts.

    When international events are at issue, then the interest in managing risk will be ever-present. This will undoubtedly continue into the future so long as political and economic uncertainties continue to prevail. As the cost of staging events continues to rise, and as the associated economic risks increase in tandem, it seems certain that research into forecasting, identifying and managing risk will continue to grow to address current gaps in knowledge. This includes the need for more research into the prediction and monitoring of the costs associated with hosting events. According to Flyvbjerg and Stewart (2012) indications are that the London Olympics will be the most expensive to date with a projected cost of £8.4 billion in real terms, a figure that is 101% over budget. For cities preparing bids in the future, Flyvbjerg and Stewart (2012) recommended that ‘reference class forecasting', where costings for previous Games form the basis for future Games budgets, be used. Transferring knowledge from the IOC (International Olympic Committee) and from one host city to the next is critical in assisting organising committees, which, by definition, are embarking on a mega-project for the very first time.

    Significant shifts in aspects of event marketing constitute another dynamic that will in all likelihood attract growing research attention in the future. Motivated by the need to understand their customer base, companies are displaying tendencies to move from simply sponsoring events to becoming involved in organising them themselves. This is a development with ramifications that remain to be uncovered: what effects will it have on event and festival organisations' funding structures? How will the unfettered, relaxed ‘get away from it all' ambiance traditionally associated with festivals negotiate the commercial ethos that can only strengthen with such a shift? The extraordinary rise of social media and what this means for event activities is another topic that will attract increasing research interest in coming years.

    At several points throughout the text, reference was made to the close relationship evident between the evolution of tourism research and enquiries into festivals and events. Often, shortcomings in the former are also evidenced in the latter and when development occurs in the former, its effects soon spill over. At present, issues pertaining to disability and wider questions of access are well discussed within the leisure sphere and also seem to be rising up the research agenda within tourism studies. In the latter, an increase in publications and even special journal issues (for example, Current Issues in Tourism, 2011) on the topic can be noted. Accordingly, the notion that societal groups experience differential access to both leisure and holidaying practices is becoming more pronounced, and there is a growing interest in investigating the type of factors that constrain participation and limit consumer experiences. In contrast, the topic of disability and access remains very under-researched in the festival and event field. This is surprising, given the growth in events organised and supported by public authorities, and the fact that these very often have social and cultural agendas pertaining to inclusion and participation. Darcy and Harris (2003) acknowledge this deficit in the literature and seek to redress it from an Australian perspective through a review of relevant legislation, event disability planning and a best practice case study.

    These and many, many other issues will continue to preoccupy the interest of a growing number of researchers as they seek to monitor, problematise and critically comment on the meanings, nature and value of the event sector. As the vast literature on festivals and events documents, this is a dynamic sector that continues to grow and develop throughout the world. As it does, it will continue to: function as a complicated set of social practices replete with meaning for communities and individuals the world over; create valuable experiences for participants, spectators and other stakeholders alike; generate valuable outcomes for economies and societies from local through to international domains and; offer abundant opportunity to continuously inspire and captivate the human imagination.


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