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 20 July, 2010

Rainforest World Music Festival has reached a plateau, say experts

Story and photos by KERNI PUAH 

ALTHOUGH last year’s Rainforest World Music Festival (RWMF) was threatened by the influenza A (H1N1) virus, the crowd turnout remained high with almost 22,000 visitors cramming the Sarawak Cultural Village (SCV) near Kuching.

The turnout for this year’s festival, however, was a disappointment to a certain degree.

While the organiser, Sarawak Tourism Board, blamed the just-concluded Fifa World Cup in South Africa, some say the event has reached it peak and people are just bored.

 Dazzling shows: A performance on the main stage. 

Experts in the industry claim that STB did not do its job efficiently, particularly in the promotion, marketing and sponsorship aspects of the festival.

Other issues were the increase in ticket prices and hotel room rates, accommodation problems and poor transportation to the festival venue and back to the city.

Despite the decline in the turnout, the 13th RWMF from July 9 to 11 was still a success. About 7,000 people attended the concert on Saturday night.

Randy Raine-Reusch, who helped start the festival in 1997, told StarMetro that there were several factors affecting ticket sales this year, but did not agree that the festival had reached its peak and was beginning to lose followers.

“Yes, I agree the event has reached a plateau, but there is room to enrich the festival. There are many ways to do that. It will continue to be the most-attended music festival in this region,” he said.

He said the decline in numbers this year was due to wrong marketing strategies and bad decisions — the sale of tickets and preparations were late.

Nice venue: Randy (third from right) and Gracie (right) relaxing with visitors at Sarawak Cultural Village during the the Rainforest World Music Festival. 

Randy said, to woo the crowds, the organiser should plan for next year’s event, adding that it would be better to have two years of planning to ensure its success in the coming years.

On the price of tickets which was RM110 for a one day pass, RM20 more than last year, Randy said, from day one, he had recommended a two-tier system of prices for locals and foreigners.

Asked to comment on suggestions to change the festival’s venue, Randy said it was not wise as it would be expensive and difficult.

“Maybe we can have the mini festival or run–up to the RWMF in towns like Miri, Sibu and Bintulu,” he said.

Former STB chief executive officer Gracie Geikie, who was called up to help organise this year’s event, felt that logistics, especially the shuttle bus service, was still not up to the mark.

She cited the case of a couple from Texas who went for the show on Friday night but was unable to get a bus shuttle back to the hotel in the city after the show.

The couple had to use a taxi that cost them RM50. The next day, they went to a ticket counter at Merdeka Palace Hotel to claim a RM20 refund.

Gracie, who has joined UCSI University Sarawak as associate dean of the Faculty of Hospitality, Tourism and Management, said the shuttle service was introduced three years ago as the number of festival visitors kept increasing.

She agreed that it could have reached a plateau and it was for this reason that the organisers should look at enriching it.

 Lively: Participants learning a Russian dance at a workshop. 

The Rainforest World Craft Bazaar held at the same time as RWMF was a new product in that direction, said Gracie.

Gracie also agreed with Randy that SCV should remain as the venue and mini events could be staged in other divisions of the state.

Last year, the festival generated RM20mil in revenue but it decreased this year due to a drop in sponsorship.

An event manager, Ali Kasa from Albania, claimed that RWMF was under-sponsored.

He said an international event could easily generate RM4.5mil in sponsorship, but RWMF managed only just more than RM1mil.

Another drawback was the increasing overall cost for patrons to travel and stay in Kuching for the festival.

RWMF is a unique festival that brings together renowned world musicians from all continents.

Its formula of afternoon workshops, ethnic-music lectures, jam sessions and mini concerts followed by evening performances on the main stage has proven to be a hit with the audience.

-- The Star --



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