ANDRÉ RIEU TEN YEARS ON THE VRIJTHOF
De Limburger, by Stefan Gybels and John Hoofs (Part 2 of 3)
"People will always pay for quality."
Guests of the NH Hotel Randwyck who are waiting at the entrance for the bus which will take them to the Vrijthof for a Rieu concert, invariably receive a printed copy of the Maastricht Anthem lyrics. "Is he going to play that?" they ask the expectantly staff members. The standard answer: "When the public is good, he’ll play it." NH - manager Antoine Scheerens knows how to provide his guests in a simple manner with an anticipation of pleasure. He loves doing it because Scheerens cherishes the month of July, since André Rieu started performing on the Vrijthof. As president of the Cooperating Hotels Organization of Maastricht he knows like no other the economic value of the living room performances of the violinist.
Because of Rieu, July has become the second month for the hotel industry
Antoine Scheerens, NH Hotels
"Because of Rieu, July has become the second most important month for the hotel industry after the TEFAF month of March. The prices are indeed a bit higher, but in terms of occupancy we do better with Rieu. Prior to the Vrijthof concerts July was a slow month, but now all hotels are full, often far into surroundings .The average hotel room in Maastricht in July was 80 Euros per night, now it is 150 Euros. Just figure how much extra revenue that brings in: 2000 hotel rooms that bring in an additional 70 Euros a night. That yields almost half a million in additional revenue. "Whoever is looking for reliable financial data over and from the Vrijthof concerts will come to a rude and cold awakening. Archives and Internet research do not give any guidance in order to make any calculations using a wet finger.
Nevertheless, we are making an attempt, starting with the income Rieu generated during the past ten years. He claims to be greeting the 500,000th concertgoers in July. In 2005, in the beginning, a ticket cost 50 Euros. In the meantime packets of hundreds of Euros are being offered which include hotel stays, tours and other extras. If we average the price of a ticket for the last decade at 60 Euros, we're talking about 30 million Euros. If it is true that a hotel stay yields 150 Euros, and Rieu fills 2000 rooms and that ten times for every summer, we are talking about three million Euros. These visitors still have to eat and shop.
In terms of occupation and guests the concerts are similar to the TEFAF; with Rieu we are full for ten days with the TEFAF only the first week.
Businessman Benoit Wesly, who is closely involved with the Rieu concerts, estimates that every concertgoer stays at least one overnight in Maastricht, and spends between 300 and 400 Euros. "I 'm sure that the businesses do better with Rieu than during the TEFAF. "The municipality of Maastricht calculates that the average amount a tourist spends per day is 200 Euros and day trippers spend 60 Euros per day.
In July in Maastricht a room costs 80 Euros, now an average of 150 Euros. Do the math and see what that yields extra.
The economic value of a Rieu concert – with one hundred percent occupancy of all the Vrijthof Seats – is estimated at 680,000 Euros. With three concerts we are talking about one and a half to two million in additional spending, reports spokesperson Math Wijnands. How high those unutilized amounts have risen since the start in 2005, can now only be found in the stars. Fifty concerts at an average of 600,000 Euros is unrealistic, since the earlier years did not yield the financial amounts being yielded now. But between ten and twenty million not a bad guess. Yet another plus: the Vrijthof Entrepreneurs benefit with special terrace arrangements along with the Rieu Concerts.
When in England a Rieu Christmas show has aired; I am convinced that Maastricht therefore gets more English visitors.
Onno Hoes, Mayor of Maastricht
In exchange for their participation on the square – which is from wall to wall - they are allowed to keep their profits. Benoit Wesly: "Hotels pay a commission in order to use the name Rieu, while the Vrijthof Entrepreneurs do not pay a cent. In fact, it provides them nothing but money. Assuming 200 seats per terrace, that will provide them a 20,000 Euro turnover in sales per evening. Take an average of six concerts per year over a ten year period and you're talking about 1.2 million per terrace. Rieu delivers them more in turnover than in the entire first quarter of the year. "Not be underestimated: the public which comes to the Vrijthof concerts is increasingly becoming international." The concerts are becoming increasingly popular, especially abroad, "said Pierre Rieu, the business leader of the company." Our fans call the Maastricht performances Hometown Concerts. It is the concert where they have to be at least once in their live.
The Vrijthof concerts supply the Vrijthof Entrepreneurs more income than the entire first quarter of the year.
Benoit Wesly, businessman
These are also the only outdoor concerts we still do worldwide." Last year, 45 percent of concertgoers came from outside the Benelux. (Belgium, Netherlands, and Luxemburg)" Benoit Wesly adds: "Rieu attracts 15,000 Brits alone. More and more foreign fans come to the concerts and less and less of Maastricht citizens. I can understand it best that after three concerts, they have seen it. In their place busloads of Japanese people come. I know of some who have occupied the same chair for ten years. "Ten years of Rieu concerts means– again an estimate - a total of seven months of a sealed off and fenced in Vrijthof.
I suddenly saw the Saint Peter’s berg pass on American television. When you have to buy that for the city as a promotion, it is not worth it.
Benoit Wesly, businessman
The commercial use of the square must be paid for. What did the municipality collect from Rieu? Last year he paid 35,000 Euros. That is to say, only for the hours that he played music and just for the stage. For all the days that the Vrijthof was unavailable, he paid nothing for the simple reason that this was part of the Regulation contract. Ten years of Rieu provided the town an expected amount of less than 200,000 Euros, in which part of it is returned back in the form of concert tickets for family members of the city council. Compared to the tens of millions of turnover, it is just a pittance. And after all, there is still frustration about the amount of what Rieu - however small that is - pays for the Vrijthof. Benoit Wesly: "André Rieu conquered the world and Maastricht conquered it right along. Wherever he goes, he speaks about Maastricht, Maastricht, Maastricht. That promotional value is unprecedented and cannot be expressed in amounts. If you have to buy your way through town as a promotion, it is unaffordable. Other cities would spend millions to lure Rieu and his concerts. In Maastricht he has to pay the municipal rates and the electric bills for the use Vrijthof."
30 Million is the estimated amount of Sales of André Rieu concerts after his 50th Vrijthof performance this coming summer. This is based on a price of 60 Euros per average for a ticket.
©Translation by John