Mar 9, 2023 - News

What to expect at SXSW

A view of the Austin Convention Center during the 2022 SXSW Conference and Festivals. Photo: Travis P Ball/Getty Images for SXSW

Brace yourself. Here comes South by Southwest.

Catch up quick: If you're new here, SXSW is among the city's largest events, with 300,000 people expected to attend across the conference and festivals.

  • Throngs of musicians hoping for a big break, tech leaders, filmmakers and celebrities will descend upon the conference and multiple festivals that take place over 10 days, highlighting technology, film, culture and music.
  • It's long been a breakout opportunity for musicians and indie film producers hoping to connect with power players.

The big picture: The festival starts Friday and ends March 19, with airport officials warning of a busy spring travel period through April 2.

  • SXSW, Dell Match Play, NASCAR, Texas Relays and the CMT Awards take place in rapid succession, or in some cases at the same time.

In other words: Gear up for traffic jams, long waits at restaurants, a busy airport terminal and a generally hectic month around Austin.

Angela Yee and Lizzo (R) speak onstage during the 2022 SXSW Conference and Festivals at the Austin Convention Center. Photo: Chris Saucedo/Getty Images for SXSW

What to expect: Like previous years, most SXSW events will be held in the downtown area, surrounding the Austin Convention Center, the Red River Cultural District, Rainey Street and the Paramount Theatre.

  • Roughly 1,400 musical acts will perform this year on 77 stages, similar figures as last year, SXSW officials tell Axios.
  • Plus, 285 total projects will be screened at the Film and TV Festival. That's compared to 234 projects screened in 2019.
  • Unlike last year, attendees are not required to submit proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test before picking up their badges.

By the numbers: Searches for Austin hotels on the Hotels.com app have increased tenfold for this year's fest compared to 2022, according to an Expedia Group spokesperson.

  • Plus, Vrbo is seeing demand for private vacation homes in the Austin area increase more than 10% compared to this time last year.
  • Increased demand has pushed average Austin hotel rates during SXSW to around $315 per night on the Hotels.com app, an increase from last year's rates.

Flashback: Last year's SXSW — the first in-person festival in three years — tested whether the 10-day event could rebound to pre-pandemic levels for attendance, hotel occupancy and tourism dollars.

  • Core events in 2022 attracted more than 278,000 registrants, down slightly from pre-pandemic numbers, per event officials.

What we're watching: How city and airport officials handle the influx of SXSW attendees and other travelers through March.

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