Ballarat International Foto Biennale has finished its two-month run in venues and outdoor locations across the city and record crowds have enjoyed the experience.
Ticket sales show more than 29,000 people visited the drawcard Liu Bolin exhibition at the Art Gallery of Ballarat alone, while numbers of people who viewed the other exhibitions in 65 venues throughout Ballarat are yet to be tallied.
BIFB artistic director Fiona Sweet said many visitors had been making a weekend trip to Ballarat to take in numerous exhibitions, with surveys indicating the event had generated 18,932 overnight stays and people staying an average 2.1 nights in town.
Ms Sweet said the early research, by Culture Counts, put the estimated direct economic impact of this year's BIFB to the city at $6.73 million, with the total indirect impact which takes in to account associated spending including retail, food and beverage, at more than $15.9 million.
"What we know is that we haven't included all the students that have come, which is more than 2000, and all the people who came to the talks, the walks, the music events and all the other things - that's just based on paid ticket data," Ms Sweet said.
Ipad surveys around town also sought to capture data from patrons who did not go to the Liu Bolin exhibition.
In all, the 2019 BIFB hosted about 200 artists presenting works in more than 100 exhibitions across 65 venues, with all but one free to view.
The previous BIFB in 2017 attracted 26,800 to its exhibitions across town and contributed more than $3.89 million to the Ballarat economy.
The 2019 event was extended for an extra month with an increased focus on related events and having the photographers themselves visit the exhibition and give talks.
"We are thrilled with the numbers. People are really interested because we've had lots and lots of artists come up to give talks, definitely more than in previous years," Ms Sweet said.
"When we decided to move the event to 60 days there were two big drivers for me; to ensure more people see the artists' works and help grow their professions and careers, and to have a bigger impact on Ballarat.
"So we focussed a lot on jazz events, other events for locals and, for people coming up for a weekend, to ensure there's something to do on the Saturday night."
But it wasn't just people from out of town - more locals than ever have enjoyed BIFB exhibitions.
In 2017 just 18 per cent of visitors to the BIFB were from the Ballarat region; this year it's about 28 per cent according to the visitor surveys Ms Sweet said.
And despite doing less interstate promotion because of a reduced marketing budget, the proportion of interstate visitors had jumped from 2 per cent to 8 per cent this year.
"We really want to thank the Ballarat community for being part of it, and we are really really excited for 2021 and the collaborations we have within the Ballarat community."
Ms Sweet said the heart of BIFB would continue beating through the new National Centre for Photography, in the old Union Bank building on Lydiard Street, which will be in use year-round for exhibitions, education and community engagement.
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