Spain’s tomato-throwing festival kicks off – Here are the world’s best festivals for the rest of 2023


The tomato-throwing festival dubbed the “world’s biggest food fight” kicked off in Spain Wednesday on the heels of London’s Notting Hill Carnival, a British Afro-Caribbean celebration, and ahead of the major cultural festivals of Oktoberfest, Dia De Los Muertos and Diwali, but it’s not just fun that street festivals bring—economic experts say they’ve become a major tourism draw, are a pillar of the economy and create jobs that allow local communities to thrive.
Buñol (valencia) Celebrates La Tomatina
A young man covered with tomato during the festival of La Tomatina on 30 August, 2023 in Buñol, Valencia, Spain. Image: Getty
Key Takeaways
  • The la Tomatina festival brings 20,000 people to the streets of Buñol for a food fight with more than 100 tons of over-ripe tomatoes—Spain started charging entrants to the festival for the first time in 2013, and the event brings in hundreds of thousands of euros annually to the small town with a year-round population of less than 10,000 people.
  • Nearly 2 million revellers took to the streets of West London last weekend for the Notting Hill Carnival to dance to steel drum bands, soak in the colourful sights and, of course, spend their money—Notting Hill is estimated to generate more than $110 million yearly, support thousands of full- time jobs and bring tourists from all over the globe as one of the world’s largest annual festivals.
  • Known as cultural tourism, travel for festivals, holidays or other events account for an estimated 40% of all tourism worldwide, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and more than 80% of countries include contemporary cultural draws like performance, film and fashion in their tourism policies.
  • Beyond bringing between up to several millions of visitors per event, cultural tourism can serve as a catalyst for urban regeneration and renaissance by enhancing native communities, and has created as many as 330 million jobs worldwide, the World Travel and Tourism Council estimates.
  • The world’s most popular festivals, like the Rio de Janeiro Carnival in Brazil, can be significant economic pillars in the region—1.5 million tourists are estimated to have brought $700 million to the city in 2019, and the cancellation of the 2021 event due to the COVID pandemic caused a “far greater” loss to the wider economy, per UNESCO.
  • Though the events may last only a few days, cultural festivals drive growth for hotels, restaurants, tour operators, souvenir shops and other industries that help to diversify and sustain local economies—the global cultural tourism market is set to reach $5.9 billion in 2023, according to Future Market Insights, and grow to $22.7 billion by 2033.
Global Festivals Still To Come In 2023
Oktoberfest 2022: Opening Day
A waitress carries some Mass (one litre glass) of beer in the Hofbrauhaus tent on the opening day of the 2022 Oktoberfest beer fest on September 17, 2022 in Munich, Germany. Image: Getty

Oktoberfest, Germany—Though it’s celebrated worldwide, Munich’s official Oktoberfest will run from Sept. 16 to Oct. 3 this year and will draw roughly 6 million visitors for music, beer and a travelling carnival. Oktoberfest has been celebrated for more than 200 years and originated to mark the royal wedding of the crown prince of Bavaria. Oktoberfest 2019 brought $1.36 billion (€1.25 billion) to Munich, the city said, with 6.3 million visitors spending $487 million at the festival alone over the 16-day period, and hundreds of millions more were spent on food, shopping, taxi rides, public transport and overnight stays.

Chinese Welcome Mid-Autumn Festival
A Chinese opera actress performs during a gala at Keyuan Museum to welcome the upcoming Mid-Autumn Festival on September 9, 2022 in Dongguan, Guangdong Province of China. Image: Getty

Mid-Autumn Festival, China— Also known as the Moon festival, China’s Mid-Autumn Festival celebrates the brightest and fullest moon of the year with lanterns, mooncakes and family gatherings, this year on September 29. The Covid pandemic delivered a major blow to travel for Chinese holidays as strict policies remained in place until this week. The number of trips taken for the Mid-Autumn Festival shrank to 73.4 million last year—down 16.7% from the year before, Reuters reported—and profit was down 22.8% for $4.14 billion in earnings in 2022.

2018 Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta
Balloons take off from Balloon Fiesta park during the 2018 Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta in New Mexico. Image: Getty

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, New Mexico—The annual hot air balloon festival in Albuquerque, New Mexico, draws more than 800,000 guests to see 600 hot air balloons dot the desert sky. The festival started with 13 balloons in 1972 and is now the largest of its kind in the world. It generated $203 million of economic impact for local businesses last year, with $119 million spent directly at the festival. This year’s fiesta will take place from October 7 to October 15.

Day Of The Dead Festivities In Jalisco
A Mexican woman, dressed as La Catrina, and a Mexican man, dressed as Catrín, take part in the Day of the Dead festivities on October 31, 2022 in Tlaquepaque, Jalisco, Mexico. Image: Getty

Dia De Los Muertos, Mexico—The Day of The Dead, this year November 2, generated an estimated $1.8 billion for Mexico last year over its two-day celebration and the days on either end, with as many as 80% of the nation’s hotel rooms booked by 1.4 million tourists. The holiday will be marked November 1 and 2 this year, and is an event to remember family and friends who have died. Those who celebrate honour the dead with favourite food and drink, gifts and marigold flowers—$59 million worth.

Hindu Indonesia Celebrate Festival Of Lights As Diwali
Indonesian Hindu-Tamil devotees offer prayers during Diwali, known as the Hindu festival of lights, at Sri Mariamman Temple in Medan, Indonesia on October 24, 2022. Image: Getty

Diwali, India—Diwali, the Indian festival of lights, is observed by more than 1 billion people across faiths and sees hundreds of thousands of people travel from around the world and across the country for prayers, fireworks and feasts. Diwali festive sales crossed the $15 billion mark last year, according to Jama Wealth—the holiday is considered an ideal time to start new projects and marks the beginning of a prosperous year. Diwali this year falls on November 12 and celebrations will run from November 10 to 15.

Yi Peng Festival and Loy Krathong event in Thailand
A woman holds a lantern during the Yi Peng Festival & Loy Kratong in Doi Saket, Chiang Mai, Thailand on November 08, 2022. Image: Getty

Yi Peng & Loy Krathong Lantern Festivals, Thailand—The northern city of Chiang Mai is the only place to see both of Thailand’s lantern festivals on the same day. Swarms of lanterns will take to the night sky for the Yi Peng Lantern Festival in the north on November 27 and 28, and lotus-shaped lanterns will float down rivers all across the country for the Loy Krathong Festival on November 28. Thousands of tourists and locals will be drawn to the major centres of Bangkok and Chiang Mai for the celebrations.Batch Of Tickets Sold Out With No Lineup In Place (Forbes)

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