Critical factors influencing visitor attendance at a literary arts festival in Stellenbosch

17 Apr 2019

The Stellenbosch University Word Festival (SUWF) is the largest literary arts festival in South Africa. At the Festival, the word in context is celebrated in as many art forms as possible. Since its establishment in 2000 it has shown a significant increase in popularity and visitor attendance, but thus far, little is known about the key factors affecting visitor attendance. This paper seeks to identify the factors that motivate festival visitors to attend SUWF. Initial analysis identified six constructs for studying the interrelationships among different variables. The constructs that had the most effect on visitors? experience included: 1) basic festival attributes such as value for money, venue spacing and adequate infrastructure; 2) the internal festival experience, such as variety in programme content, convenient event setting and adequate safety and security; and 3) the external festival experience, including sufficient support services and amenities, excellent customer service, and the experience of appropriate advertising media to attract visitors. The constructs which most influenced visitor satisfaction and reflected the level of service at the festival were 4) details of infrastructure, convenience of access, and food and beverage services; 5) the internal festival experience, including technology (electronic ticketing and payment), the experience of culture and arts, and designated smoking areas; 6) the external festival experience, which extended to general ambiance, hygiene and traffic. The above factors appear to be those that ensure sustainability, give SUWF a competitive advantage over other arts festivals in South Africa and globally, and encourage the development of similar festivals.