Music festivals are finding their way onto events calendars across Asia, but they don’t always strike the right note with travel consultants.
ZoukOut, one of Singapore’s most popular music draws among foreigners
Asia’s travel companies are keen on bigger business from music fans around the world, but only a handful have managed to capitalise on such opportunities so far.
Singapore’s annual dance music festival ZoukOut drew 28,000 revellers in 2011, of which some 45 per cent were from abroad. Over the last few years, festival organiser Zouk has worked closely with youth travel specialist STA Travel to distribute tickets and packages through the latter’s local and overseas offices.
Sofie Chandra, Zouk’s marketing and business development manager, said the take-up rate for packages had remained steady in the last few years, although free-and-easy options were now more in demand. She added that Zouk was open to working with more travel firms.
For Kuching-based CPH Travel Agencies, sales from the Rainforest World Music Festival has posted a 10 per cent year-on-year growth over the last three years, said director of sales, Hannah Choo, who credited this largely to Sarawak Tourism Board’s aggressive marketing efforts.
The company offers two types of music festival packages to clients, most of whom come from West Malaysia and Singapore, and in small groups of family or friends. The basic package includes tickets and accommodation, while sightseeing tours are added for those who are extending their stays.
Kuala Lumpur-based DMC, AOS Conventions & Events, has even jumped into the events fray itself. In November 2011, it organised the inaugural Langkawi Live Music Festival at the Frangipani Langkawi Resort & Spa, also part of the AOS family.
Group managing director, Anthony Wong deemed the two-day event a success as it attracted about 1,000 music lovers from around the region. Both music festival packages were well received, he said. One included accommodation, meals and transfers, while the other had only tickets and meals.
Still a relatively new segment
In other destinations such as Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines, however, turning music festivals into tourist magnets is still in its early stages.
Addie Hirunkate, managing director, Destination Asia Thailand, said events in her country were mainly aimed at the domestic market, making it difficult to attract overseas visitors. “We really need promoters to look at bringing more world-renowned music festivals like WOMAD or to create Thailand’s own world-class music festival,” she added.
Diethelm Travel Thailand managing director, Hans van den Born, said the company had no specific itineraries incorporating music festivals, although it had “regular promotions and write-ups in various media to create awareness of the music festivals Thailand has to offer”.
While the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) does not have exact figures of foreign tourists who come specifically for these events, spokesperson Chattan Kunjara Na Ayudhya, said the Pattaya International Music Festival – the most popular one – sees international and Thai tourists swelling to 400,000 during the event, made up of mostly younger travellers. Another prominent event is the Hua Hin Jazz Festival, which attracts an older demographic. Around 50,0000-70,000 tourists visit the town during the period, and numbers are rising, said TAT.
Indonesia has a growing number of music festivals, such as the Java Jazz Festival in Jakarta, Kereta Kencana World Music Festival in Solo and other more traditional ones, but many major travel consultants have not been able to sell these effectively.
Association of the Indonesian Tours and Travel Agencies South Sulawesi chapter board member, Nico Pasaka, said: “Most festivals in Indonesia are announced at the last minute. Although it is an annual event, the exact dates are usually decided too close to the event, making it difficult for us to package and promote.”
Brazil’s Raiz De Cafezal at Sarawak’s Rainforest World Music Festival (left); Thai band Paradox at Pattaya International Music Festival
Hellen Xu, Panorama Tours Indonesia managing director of travel management, added: “There is always a possibility that a festival or music concert is cancelled at the last minute for any reason. While the admission fee is refundable, there is no (refund) guarantee for room bookings and deposits made with hotels.” As a result, Panorama only focuses on selling tickets to local customers.
Ironically, the musically-destination of the Philippines currently does not have any major festivals it can promote overseas. Some organisers of international concerts are also not interested in the overseas market. Renen de Guia, head of Ovation Productions, which has staged Lady Gaga and Sergio Mendes & Brasil 2012 in Manila, said “the domestic market was big enough”.
This may change, however, with the emergence of bigger venues in Manila, including the SMX Convention Center and the Mall of Asia Arena. Current events targeted at mainly domestic tourists may also stand a chance of going international.
The Backdoor Ventures Arts & Music Festival, which is now in its sixth year, has already secured a move from the Megatrade Hall to the bigger SMX Convention Center. Founder Jay Viriña said he plans to involve the foreign embassies in the Philippines in marketing.
Blue Horizons Travel and Tours inbound sales and marketing manager, Jayne Lim-Ong, recalled that negotiations for an international jazz festival fell through some two years ago, due to insufficient facilities to accommodate up to 4,000 people.
Destination Asia’s Addie suggested that organisers worked with the trade from the event’s inception. “We need more advance notice to effectively promote music festivals,” she explained.
Panorama’s Xu added: “They could involve us in their promotional activities and make us their appointed agents as we have many outlets, both in Jakarta and outside the city.”
Singapore-based Tradewinds ceased selling tickets and packages for ZoukOut and Mosaic Music Festival due to insufficient sales, according to a company spokesperson. She said: “Generally, these events are not well-advertised abroad to music fans, and they are too Singapore-centric. Organisers should do more to market these festivals abroad.”
However, one organiser said a more fundamental issue was the profile of festival attendees. Steven Woodward, general manager of Midas Promotions, which does Singapore’s SINGFest, explained that selling tickets and packages to foreign travellers was “not financially viable for travel companies and event organisers in general as most overseas music festival-goers prefer to travel independently and make their own arrangements”.
Additional reporting from Chami Jotisalikorn, S Puvaneswary, Mimi Hudoyo and Rosa Ocampo