WinterFest beats credit crunch blues

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Tough economic times have left the organiser of the Winter Festival in Queens-town undaunted. 

Simon Green says commercial sponsorship, the festival’s major funding source, has been “refreshingly positive”. 

Ticketed events were also selling well, he says – even the $179-a-head ball had sold out. 

“It’s been proved out across the country and probably around the world that people’s travel patterns at times of recession get scaled back a bit but they spend their entertainment dollar because they need a bit of light relief – and that’s what festival is,” Green says. 

Green’s also heartened by “very strong” visitor bookings but concedes the sponsorship environment is tougher than it used to be. 

“Negotiations that used to be relatively quick now happen at a much higher level because the chequebooks are being much more tightly controlled,” he says. 

Still, 40-plus companies have signed on. 

“We mounted our sponsorship recovery last year and that got a lot of people onboard. 

“This year we’ve been negotiating lots of agreements that have come up for renewal and getting them more onto multi-year terms.” 

Green doesn’t believe the Rugby World Cup has affected festival sponsorship: “We’re 37 years old and the partners we’ve got are long-term – some of them have been with us for 20 years.” 

Despite sponsors’ importance, the festival programme was still designed for the local community, Green says. 

“We’re just lucky that the commercial partners we have can see the value in tagging themselves onto those events and the event as a whole.” 

Green reveals the festival budget is well over $1 million. 

Yet he says it doesn’t receive funding from either the council or promotion body Destination Queenstown. 

Green adds: “There are not many events on this scale probably in any sort of community, that don’t have any sort of local government funding.