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Celtic Colours festival means business for Cape Breton

By Chris Hayes – Cape Breton Post

SYDNEY, NS: The 2003 Celtic Colours International Festival will be
music to the ears of those in the tourism and service industries as
thousands of visitors spend millions of dollars in Cape Breton.

Festival director Max MacDonald said the goal this year is to sell
20,000 tickets, which could mean a $6-million boost for the local
economy.

This year’s festival, which opens Friday evening at Centre 200 in
Sydney with the Gala Opening Concert, will stage 44 concerts in 33
communities around Cape Breton with local artists and performers from
across Canada, the U.S. and Europe. Celtic Colours closes with the
World’s Biggest Square Dance in Baddeck, Oct. 18.

It adds another nine days to Cape Breton’s tourism season, MacDonald noted.

“The tourism season used to end on Thanksgiving weekend. Now, the Cape
Breton tourism industry is open for an extra week, which is gravy time.

“So . . . it has a tremendous positive impact on the economy.”

Typically, slightly more than half the festival-goers are from areas other than Cape Breton.

Last year, Celtic Colours sold 18,000 tickets and contributed an
estimated $5.8 million to the Cape Breton economy. Daily tracking of
ticket sales was compared to last year to produce the higher estimate
for this year.

Festival organizers are happy to make the case that the festival
contributes to Cape Breton’s economy because of the government funding
it receives.

Celtic Colours got a total of $300,000 from Enterprise Cape Breton
Corp., the provincial government and the Cape Breton Regional
Municipality this year based largely on the economic impact it makes.
Funding from government is crucial, said MacDonald.

“The festival probably wouldn’t exist were it not for the fact it has
demonstrated it can draw visitors here,” MacDonald said. “Last year,
over 6,000 people from somewhere else were driving all over Cape Breton
spending money for nine days.”

Celtic Colours uses the tourism industry standard formula provided by
Enterprise Cape Breton Corp. for estimating spending by visitors,
although the dollars per visitor numbers haven’t been updated since
1998. Industry figures are also based on four-day stays and Celtic
Colours is a nine-day event, MacDonald noted.

“I’d say, if anything, our numbers are conservative.”

National Car Rentals is one of many local service companies that benefit from the festival.

Local spokesman Dave Hooper said the car-rental company gets a lot of
business from festival-goers, in part because of its sponsorship
relationship with Celtic Colours.

“It means a lot (of business) to us,” he said. “Last year was a great success.”

People who rent cars during Celtic Colours can also become repeat business when they return to Cape Breton, he added.

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