OCTOBER 18 – 22, 2023

San Diego Pic 2

Festival Tourism

By Tonya Mantooth, CEO & Artistic Director
San Diego International Film Festival 

Question:  Have you ever travelled to another film festival like Sundance or Telluride or Toronto?  Or … have you ever thought about planning your vacation around a film festival experience?

Here at the San Diego International Film Festival, we welcome visitors from around the world to our Festival and work with San Diego’s tourism and hospitality industry to promote not only our Festival but all the things we love about San Diego and why it is such a great travel destination.

There’s a relatively new travel industry category called ‘Festival Tourism’ … specifically for people who build their travel itinerary around an experience.  Think about all the out-of-towners who attend SXSW or Comic-Con.  It’s big business and an industry segment that’s growing by leaps and bounds as adventurers seek new and unusual experiences when they travel!

The drivers behind this growth in Film Festival Tourism include:

  • Economic impact for tourism sector
  • Cultural enrichment for local community
  • Forum for Filmmakers/Film Buyers/Distributors

Sundance Film Festival is a great example of economic impact. In 2019, Sundance attracted 116,800 attendees, with approximately 44,000 of these attendees being visitors from out of state.  According to the Sundance organization’s site, “In total, the Sundance Film Festival contributed $167.5 million in Utah gross domestic product, 2,730 jobs for Utah residents, $88 million in Utah wages, and $17.8 million in state and local tax revenue.”

Santa Barbara Film Festival’s 11-day long event is another example. It attracts 95,000 attendees with 80% of those attendees being from outside of Santa Barbara’s county! Although a smaller county than most of its Southern California neighbors, visitors to Santa Barbara also enjoy its beautiful scenery, hotels, restaurants and shopping centers while attending their Festival.

The Tribeca Film Festival was created by Robert De Niro in 2002 following the 9/11attack on the World Trade Center in New York. De Niro aspired to help boost both the morale and the economy following the structural and mental trauma of the 9/11 attacks. As noted by KC Wright, writer for Backstage, “The Tribeca Film Festival has brought an estimated $750 million worth of economic activity to Manhattan helping to revitalize the hearts, minds, and businesses of countless numbers of the city’s residents”.

In addition to contributing economically, festivals enrich the cultural life of a community.  They are a gathering place for filmmakers, artists, innovators, and the global creative community who embrace cinematic storytelling in all of its forms.  And who doesn’t want to hang out with these people at screenings, parties and panels?

And finally, let’s not forget that Festivals give voice to independent Filmmakers from around the world who are passionate about their work. By providing a platform for their work to be seen, Festivals provide the film watchers with different perspectives that hopefully lead to a better understanding of what connects us through our shared humanity.

So, here’s a tip for your film festival vacation planning.  Festival season begins in January and literally circles the globe until the end of the year. The San Diego International Film Festival’s place on the circuit in October is right after the Toronto Film Festival which puts us in the glidepath for awards consideration. At this point in the year, the buzz is beginning about which films will be nominated for many awards including the Golden Globes and Oscars.  As a result, over the last 9 years the San Diego International Film Festival has premiered 23 films that have gone on to be nominated for an Oscar, 17 of those for Best Picture.

Here at the San Diego international Film Festival, we are proud of the economic and cultural benefits we bring to our home town. Not only do we help provide economic stimulation in our community but also an opportunity for local San Diegans to see the films and interact with Filmmakers from around the world.

Consider this an invitation to join us in beautiful San Diego next October!  For more information, go to SDFilmFest.com and we’ll see you then!


Learn more about the San Diego Intl Film Festival

Become a MYSDFILMFEST Member to attend the Festival Channel Screenings! LEARN MORE
See the full list of all films playing on the 2021 Festival Channel HERE