Left: Experimentations-etudiantes by local students.
Above: Cathédrale de l’eau et de
lumière by Jean-Luc Hervé. Both
at Lyons Fête des Lumières, 2014
The Fête des Lumières normally takes place for four
nights in December around the Christian Feast of the
Immaculate Conception and draws on a tradition of
putting lit candles on window ledges to propitiate
the Virgin Mary. In its more recent, multimedia,
city-wide and high-tech incarnation, the festival has
become ‘important for economic factors but also
very important for the city’s image around the world,’
says festival administrator Jeanne Nicolle. ‘Lyons is
associated with the lighting festival. It was gastronomy
and football, but now it is gastronomy and the lights.’
But judging the precise economic impact of postponing
the festival would be hard. ‘There are no tickets so it is
hard to be exact on numbers, but two to three million
people enjoy the Fête des Lumières,’ says Nicolle.
‘We know six million people use local public transport
and we have information from local businesses. The
city’s hotels are 98 per cent booked for the four days,
eight months ahead, but half of the visitors stay with
family or friends.’
LUCI has developed a Light Festival Evaluation Toolkit
to help authorities measure the economic and cultural
benefits of light festivals and other night-time events.
Economic benefits include visitor spending, job
creation and increased tax revenue, but there is also a
value to event publicity and increased brand awareness
or image. Sponsors and funders need to know that they
are getting value for money, including in-kind support
such as media coverage for which notional values can
be calculated. The toolkit includes information on
multipliers, a means of extrapolating benefits that last
well beyond an event and affect nearby businesses.
Berlin’s 2015 Festival of Lights is estimated to have
attracted more than 2.2m people and generated
750,000 hotel bookings.
Sydney’s mid-year Vivid light, music and ideas festival
in 2015 had more than 1.7m visitors and, according to
New South Wales tourism minister Stuart Ayres, ‘over
26,000 international travel packages were sold with
more than 11,000 packages sold to China alone’. But
visitor numbers of necessity tend to be guesstimates.
Festivals often take place over large urban areas with
no clear entry points.
In Osaka visitors are counted as they come over bridges
on to the island, but in Helsinki organisers have to
base their estimate of 20,000 visitors on feedback
from police and security personnel who measure peak
crowd numbers. They acknowledge that they do not
know how long people spend on the streets or whether
peak numbers are the same as total numbers.