Essence Communications, the leading media, technology and commerce company serving Black women, today announced a record-breaking economic impact of $280 million for its 2018 ESSENCE Festival® presented by Coca-Cola. Growth in Festival attendance, which reached more than 510,000, and a boost in tourism spending within the host City and State of New Orleans, Louisiana, garnered the highest fiscal input in the event’s 24-year history. Nearing 130,000 attendees per day, the ESSENCE Festival is now also the nation’s largest entertainment and cultural event based on average daily attendance, leading events including Coachella, SXSW, New Orleans Jazz and Made in America festivals.
“As one of the world’s largest annual curated content experiences attracting an international audience of more than a half million people over the course of one weekend, the Essence Festival packs a proven and powerful economic punch–and continues to reach new heights in collaboration with the State of Louisiana and City of New Orleans,” said Michelle Ebanks, CEO of Essence Communications. “Working together with our government and enterprise partners, we are pleased to report the highest-ever contribution to the growth and profitability of local businesses and services that help to create an unforgettable experience for our Festival community.”
With the 2018 summer Festival season wrapped, the 4-day Essence Festival has emerged as the leader in size and economic significance among the country’s largest live events and a top destination for tourism during Fourth of July weekend. Through attendee surveys and analysis based on event production, lodging, food & beverage, retail, gaming and transportation spend, the annual economic figure represents a substantial benefit to Louisiana and New Orleans seasonal tourism and shines a spotlight that furthers the legacy of one the nation’s most culturally rich and diverse destinations.
“This year’s Essence Festival was a great success in terms of attendance and national exposure for New Orleans and Louisiana. I believe many of the Essence Festival attendees will be returning to our state for years to come,” said Louisiana Lieutenant Governor Billy Nungesser.
“On behalf of the City of New Orleans, I am grateful for our continued partnership with the ESSENCE Festival and proud of the impact that’s been made,” said New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell. “This year’s Fest generated tremendous economic activity for the City — money that went to our large and small businesses and to the working men and women who make them run. We look forward to another historic year in 2019.”
In addition to the attendance and economic impact, the scale of talent, programming and digital engagement at the ESSENCE Festival is unmatched. A 2018 Essence Festival by-the-numbers analysis reveals further record-breaking engagement including 100+ performing artists; 200+ influencers, leaders, creators and celebrities; 150+ Marketplace entrepreneurs; and 200+ hours of live content throughout the weekend that generated 5 billion+ media and PR impressions and reached trending status on social media, featuring 103+ million posts, shares and likes and resulting in 14+ billion social media impressions.
“On the eve of the ESSENCE Festival’s 25th anniversary, scheduled for July 4-7, 2019, this summer’s extraordinary gathering underscores the convening power of culture, as well as the continued interest and engagement of Black women globally around community and content that empowers and inspires,” said Ebanks. “We were thrilled this year to be able to introduce new entrepreneurial and business experiences such as our ESSENCE E-Suites and our ESSENCE Marche e-commerce platform. But there’s so much more. As an almost five-decade old startup, we are excited to move forward not only as a reimagined media and content company, but also as a technology and commerce company using 21st century platforms to provide even more effective solutions to our community of women. We are continually evolving to shape our work to meet their needs with increasing depth and relevance, and this is just the beginning.”
The 2018 ESSENCE Festival was executive produced by ESSENCE Festivals LLC, a division of ESSENCE Communications Inc. (ECI), and produced by Solomon Group. GeChar was the executive producer of the 2018 ESSENCE Empowerment Experience.
Sponsors of the 2018 ESSENCE Festival included presenting sponsor Coca-Cola and major sponsors AT&T, Ford, McDonald’s, State Farm and Walmart.