POLL: Concert downturn costs Hunter millions

A LACK of big name international acts combined with an economic downturn is tipped to cost the Hunter Valley economy millions in the lead up to Christmas.

Hope Estate has gone from four concerts (Dolly Parton  and Elton John, twice each) during the same period last year to one this season (Matchbox 20 on Saturday, November 3).

The situation was made worse by the cancellation of George Michael, who was due to perform on December 1.

‘‘The whole market is subdued because it relies on consumer spending and consumer spending is quite soft at the moment,’’  Hope Estate owner Michael Hope said.

‘‘Promoters are cautious about who they bring out and they need to sell a certain amount of tickets to make it worthwhile.’’

Mr Hope believes the Elton John and Dolly Parton concerts placed more than $30 million into the Hunter Valley economy last December.

He estimated the George Michael concert alone would have injected more than $8 million  into the local community.

‘‘The flow-on effect is huge and its frustrating because there’s nothing we can do about it,’’ Mr Hope said of the cancellation.

‘‘There’s food vendors, cleaners, accommodation, security, staff, coaches and shops in and around Cessnock that benefit.’’

Hunter Valley Wine Country Tourism executive manager Dean Gorddard said there was no doubt concerts filled beds in the wine region but the popular tourism destination was not reliant on concerts for sustainability.

Once big international acts tour a region, such as the wineries, they are unlikely to return for three to four years.

Tempus Two winery, which attracted Duran Duran in March, has no concerts leading up to Christmas.

A Day on The Green has maintained its five shows a season at Bimbadgen Estate by packaging strong groups of Australian artists: Hoodoo Gurus, The Angels with Dave Gleeson, Baby Animals, James Reyne and Boom Crash Opera will perform at the venue on November 10.

‘‘It’s been a deliberate strategy to keep our tickets prices down under $100,’’ A Day on The Green promoter Michael Newton said.

‘‘The market is very tough due to the economy. People are a little bit nervous. Entertainment is part of discretionary spending.’’

It’s a similar story at Newcastle Entertainment Centre, which hosted Stevie Nicks, Def Leppard and Heart in the latter half of last year. They followed huge American acts earlier in the year such as Rihanna, Usher, Cyndi Lauper and Katy Perry.

‘‘The exchange rate was extremely favourable with the US last year, which helped concert activity,’’ general manager Chris Blanch said.

‘‘The dollar has been high for a few years and a lot of big acts have toured from America. Now they will wait to come back again.’’  

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