Swiss winegrowers’ festival ends up massively in the red

A total of 375,000 people paid for tickets to enter the spectacular 20,000-seat outdoor arena at a cost of CHF79-359. However, the organisers had planned for 400,000. Keystone / Jean-christophe Bott

The Fête des Vignerons – a spectacular traditional winegrowers’ festival held in the Swiss lakeside town of Vevey – has reported a loss of almost CHF12 million ($12.6 million) for its 2019 edition.

This content was published on July 7, 2020 - 11:38
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The organisers spent almost CHF106 million to stage the once-in-a-generation private festival last year from July 18 to August 11, they said in a statement on Tuesday.

But an accumulation of factors resulted both in higher-than-expected expenses (+5-10%) and fewer-than-expected paying visitors.

A total of 375,000 people paid for tickets to enter the spectacular 20,000-seat outdoor arena – where shows featured more than 7,000 local actors, singers and musicians – at a cost of CHF79-359. However, the organisers had planned for 400,000.

Evening shows were busy but day-time performances were less than three-quarters full, and the festival lost on average CHF1.6 million per performance.

Since last year the Vevey winegrowers’ guild, which puts on the UNESCO-rated festival roughly every 20 years, has been scrambling to reduce expenditure and cover the deficit. The guild said numerous suppliers, partners and service providers had reduced or cancelled their final invoices. On Monday, the Vaud cantonal authorities said they would waive a CHF1.9 million bill for security provided by police and fire services.

The 2019 edition has left a huge hole in the guild’s finances and special financial measures affecting its functioning will be needed – to be approved at the guild’s General Assembly – to ensure its continuity, it said.

Nonetheless last year’s festival, which attracted visitors from across Switzerland and abroad, had a direct and indirect impact on the local economy estimated at CHF327 million, the guild noted.


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