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Towns and cities are increasingly using arts festivals as an important motivator to attract visitors and tourism and to stimulate urban development. During the past two decades, arts festivals have been multiplying in the Western world and becoming more visible and culturally prominent. This research seeks to address tourism aspects that develop between arts festivals organisers and policy makers, residents, visitors and the tourism industry. The objective of the paper is to explore the role of the International Arts festivals in the tourism development of the cities of Kalamata and Drama, Greece, through measurement and evaluation of the perceptions and opinions of its attendants and the cities’ residents and visitors. Primary data were collected with the aid of online questionnaires, distributed and collected during autumn2016. 130 questionnaires were answered by residents and visitors of the Drama International Short Film Festival and 186 questionnaires were answered by residents and visitors of the Kalamata International Dance Festival. Results suggest that, after 22 years of operation, the two Festivals are significantly acknowledged for their overall role in the cities’ tourism image and growth, despite different characteristics the two festivals and the two cities. The city of Drama has benefited from its Festival, which has played a significant part in improving the city’s tourism infrastructure, image and first-time visitor attraction. As Kalamata is an already established destination, the Festival may have not necessarily translated into much higher tourism revenues and infrastructure improvement, but is has significantly enhanced its image and high-profile visitor attraction. In both cases, it is widely acknowledged that the Festivals have a lot of further untapped potential, as unique city branding tools, adding value to the destinations and extending the tourism season. This research aims to contribute to knowledge concerning the impacts of established international festivals on medium-sized cities, useful for research and academic purposes, as well as for local and national authorities responsible for tourism planning.
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