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Analysis shows Caribana's impact on economy and potential for future

By Dana Yates

Gervan Fearon, dean of The G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education (left), and Carlyle Farrell, professor and chair of the Global Management Studies department in the Ted Rogers School of Business Management

Gervan Fearon, dean of The G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education (left), and Carlyle Farrell, professor and chair of the Global Management Studies department in the Ted Rogers School of Business Management, found that the popular Caribana festival generates jobs and local profits.

The Scotiabank Caribana Festival is one of the cultural highlights of summer in Toronto. And according to two Ryerson researchers, one of the city's most vibrant festivals also has the biggest economic impact. 

Gervan Fearon and Carlyle Farrell were once classmates in graduate school, and today they are colleagues at Ryerson University. Fearon is dean of The G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education, and Farrell is a professor and chair of the Global Management Studies department in the Ted Rogers School of Business Management. Most recently, the two economists pooled their expertise to complete the most comprehensive, independent analysis of the economic contributions of Caribana. Having reached its 43rd anniversary, the festival celebrates all things Caribbean, and attracts visitors from across Canada and around the world.

"The project provided a good opportunity to give back to the community," says Farrell. "Intuitively, we knew the festival was big, but we didn't realize just how large it actually is in terms of its contribution to the economy."

Last summer, Fearon and Farrell worked with marketing research company Ipsos Reid to develop a survey about expenditure and travel patterns among festival attendees. E-mail addresses were collected from participants at the King and Queen Show, the Scotiabank Caribana Parade, the Scotiabank Caribana Lime and the Scotiabank Caribana Tent Villages. Attendees were then e-mailed an invitation to participate in the study, and in the end, more than 280 people took part. 

Using a grid-count methodology to estimate crowd size, the researchers were able to determine that about one million people attended the parade. Nearly half hailed from the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), while another 284,000 guests travelled from the United States and other international destinations. The remaining guests came from Canada but outside of the GTA.

Using the Ontario Tourism Regional Economic Impact Model, the researchers estimated that the 2009 festival generated $438 million for the economy. Specifically, the strongest impacts were made in the areas of accommodation, food and beverage, recreation and entertainment, and the retail trade. In fact, while GTA and Canadian residents spent on average roughly $330 as part of their festival experience, other attendees spent on average upwards of $900 during their visit. Many attendees participated in two or more related Scotiabank Caribana events, including the parade. Finally, the festival resulted in the creation of some 6,800 jobs, more than 80 per cent of which were in the Toronto area.

While these are impressive results, Farrell and Fearon believe the festival still has room to grow. For example, there are opportunities to further expand Caribana's corporate sponsorship, government funding, and branding and merchandising initiatives. New events could also potentially be added to the line-up, says Farrell.

"The parade ends at 6 p.m., but many people continue to mill around until 7 or 8 p.m. There is a huge opportunity to reach out to these individuals, and to market additional events and activities to them."

And while next steps will be at the discretion of festival organizers, Fearon says the economic-impact study is important in its own right.

"It provides a tangible example of the important role that festivals – and the cultural industries, in general – play in Toronto, the province and the country. The study also points to the benefits of diversity and how it helps to place Toronto on the map of global cities."


Read more research news at:
www.ryerson.ca/research

If you are a faculty member and would like to submit your current research as a story idea, please email a brief summary to stoye@ryerson.ca

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