Arts festivals, urban tourism and cultural policy.

Bernadette Quinn, Dublin Institute of Technology

Document Type Article

Journal of Policy Research in Tourism, Leisure and Events, 2(3): 264-279.


Arts festivals are in the ascendant. Framed within an array of neo-liberal, culture-led urban regeneration strategies, they are now a mainstay of urban tourism and urban policy-making. As such, they face growing competitive pressures and competing agendas, and the need for a set of coherent goals and policy frameworks is vital. While a review of the literature clearly shows that arts festivals can deliver a series of benefits that separately meet the cultural policy and urban tourism policy objectives, there is little to suggest that cities normatively engage in comprehensive, integrated policy-making for urban arts festivals. This paper critically reviews a range of literature that investigates how arts festivals further cultural policy and tourism policy objectives in urban contexts, with a particular focus on recent developments in Ireland. Overall, it argues that current conceptualisations of arts festivals within urban policy frameworks are imbalanced. While the proliferation of arts festivals signals expansion for the sector, the ready transferability of arts festivals into tourist attractions and city image-makers raises the prospect of a new dichotomy within a city’s supply of artistic offerings, with the visible and instantly appealing, e.g. festivals, being more likely to prosper through a variety of public funding, public-private ventures and private sponsorship arrangements, than other cultural organisations with less potential for spectacle. It concludes by arguing that common bases for collaboration need to be identified between the arts festivals and tourism sectors, and that these common bases need to be conceptualised within the broader cultural and urban policy arenas in which arts festival are now firmly implicated.