An Economic Impact Report commissioned independently by Stranraer Development Trust reveals that the Stranraer Oyster Festival generated an impressive £511k for the local economy while safeguarding nine tourism related jobs.
This newly published report contains data from a visitor and business survey and highlights the different ways in which many local businesses benefited from this additional expenditure. It also reveals a marked increase in local spend.
Around 10,000 people visited the town during the Festival from 15th – 17th September. Of these, 205 Festival ticket holders completed the online survey that was conducted immediately after the event. Respondents of all ages visited a wide selection of events over the three days. The survey reflects a spirit of ‘engagement’ from visitors and businesses alike, demonstrating the sense of ownership and civic pride in the event. Comments and suggestions for the future were overwhelmingly positive and constructive, leaving event organisers in no doubt that the first Stranraer Oyster Festival had been a ‘great hit’ with visitors and crucially of course for the local business community too.
Of the businesses that responded, 57% witnessed an increase in trade as a direct result of the area hosting the Festival. Although the increase varied from business to business in some cases this increase was as much as £20,000. 65% felt that the town’s hosting of the Stranraer Oyster Festival encouraged them to think about new ways to develop or promote their business, product or service as illustrated by a local restaurateur whose enthusiastic approach encapsulated one of the Festival’s key aims:
“We offered a larger choice of seafood specials on our menu to highlight the abundance and availability of the selection of seafood landed locally” i.e. working in tandem with other local businesses to the obvious advantage of all.
Meanwhile the Festival Traders’ Market in a bustling marquee created the opportunity for local artisan food, drink and other tourism related businesses to showcase and sell their produce while others were quick to spot the business and positive PR potential in securing a stall should there be another festival in the future. Many of the traders reported selling out on the first day.
The festival was part funded by Dumfries & Galloway Council’s Major Events Strategic Fund.
Councillor Adam Wilson, the Council’s Events Champion said, “The Stranraer Oyster Festival caught the imagination of the public and had a superb programme of events to attract thousands of visitors. It was a wonderful success for the town in the year Stranraer marked its 400th anniversary as a Royal Burgh.
The economic impact really is considerable and demonstrates that the right festival or event project can raise the profile of our communities and provide an important boost to businesses. The Council will continue to strive to make Dumfries and Galloway the best rural location in Scotland in which to plan, deliver and visit great events.”
While the majority of local businesses appeared to benefit in some way, visitors to the town were equally delighted to have been part of this inaugural event.
Visitor comments included:
- “I tried oysters for the first time and loved them!”
- “I was very proud to have been born and bred in Stranraer, and I haven’t felt like that in a long time.”
- “LOVED IT so please do it again!”
- “It was very well organised and the volunteers did a great job. It included lots for ”
- “The Festival really promoted the area”
Visitor suggestions included:
- “Just do it all again”
- “I would have been prepared to pay to attend some of the (free) events – certainly if it helped the festival to keep running annually.”
- “More cooking demonstrations”
- “ More stalls”
- “Live streaming of events held off-site in other venues”
The report states that almost 83% of visitors to the town were in Stranraer as a direct result of the Festival and over 76% of survey respondents were interested in receiving information about future events boding extremely well for the future.
Stranraer Oyster Festival was also supported by SSE who welcomed the findings of the report:
‘The SSE Sustainable Development is delighted to have supported the first Stranraer Oyster Festival. The economic impact survey highlights the significant success of this event in helping to increase tourism and support the local economy. It is a new asset to the town of Stranraer.’ Lindsay Dougan, Community Funds Manager, SSE
Other funders included the Big Lottery Fund, the Holywood Trust, and EMFF (European Maritime & Fisheries Fund).
Stena was the headline sponsor with sponsorship also from a large number of local businesses.
Looking to the Future
The Stranraer Development Trust is inspired and excited by the potential of Stranraer Oyster Festival and has already come up with a host of ideas for how to build on this year’s success. The Economic Impact Report adds an essential dimension to the research, which can now be scrutinised to inform the event’s sustainable future.
Romano Petrucci, Chairman of Stranraer Development Trust who organised the Festival commented:
“The Trust is proud and delighted with every aspect of the Festival. It’s all very well sitting in a Board meeting thinking about creating something like this, but it’s an entirely different level when you get down to the production of it all. For that you need many things, and the Trust went forward confident they could achieve that. A professional and capable staff; local support from businesses and individuals alike; belief from sponsors that your plan was worth supporting; persons capable of obtaining the necessary funding and Board members always available to give of their time. Although this was something very new to all the Board, each member was confident that as a Town, Stranraer and its people would always get right behind any effort from others that portrayed their area in a good light. And that is what happened. The entire weekend was a fantastic example of what can be achieved when good people work together for the betterment of somewhere they love. Over the weekend of 15-17th September, Stranraer unquestionably re-engaged with the Loch in a manner that had not been seen since the last ferry sailed out of the port 6 years previously. We’re looking to the future now with our sights most definitely set on establishing a future date for our next Festival.”
Interestingly 5% of those who completed the survey and who contributed their suggestions were under 24 years of age. Thinking long-term, the Festival placed great importance on attracting young visitors this year while engaging local young people to participate in Festival-related activities, before, during and after the event. In so doing another key aim was realised.
The Holywood Trust who have also welcomed the report’s findings in relation to youth involvement and are to be thanked for making much of this possible through their generous sponsorship. Speaking on behalf of the Trust Karen Ward Boyd said:
“The Trust supported the concept of embedding local young people within the festival structure and enabling them to have a key role to play in both its development and delivery. I am delighted that as well as the tremendous economic impact this first oyster festival has had, that there is recognition of the important role that young people played in the success of the festival – well done to everyone involved and to all those to attended the events.”
As the report’s encouraging findings prove, the Festival has clearly demonstrated how, even in its first year, it has enriched the local community and the Scottish Festival scene with its unique focus on Loch Ryan’s wild native oysters as a ‘catalyst to action.’ This unquestionably marks it out as different from other festivals, thereby attracting an increasing number of visitors to the area while raising the profile of Stranraer and the entire region of Dumfries and Galloway to its significant financial benefit.