Festivals and their impact on real estate

Have you noticed the conspicuously installed lanterns around Chinatown as well as malls and retail establishments?

Chinese lanterns symbolize people letting go of the past year, and welcoming the new lunar year with good fortune and optimism. 

As we draw to a close the observance of the Chinese New Year, we commemorate the final day of this celebration with the Chinese Lantern Festival.  

Lantern Festival

This Saturday, February 24, 2024, is the fifteenth day of the first lunar month.  Called Yuán Xiāo Jié, this festival began over two millennia ago, and since 2008, has been listed as an intangible cultural heritage element.

The Lantern Festival has several meanings. It celebrates reunions to keep families and friends together. A favorite dessert served is the tang yuan or yuan xiao or glutinous rice dumpling, with sweet fillings made of syrup, red bean paste, black sesame paste, and others (ala mochi). It is usually boiled and served in hot water. The dumplings’  shapes resemble full moons and thus represent reunions.

During the festival, kids will be seen carrying paper lanterns and solving riddles written on them. Today, lantern designs have evolved and can be seen in varied shapes, including animals. 

Ancient spiritual traditions relate this festival with the Taoist deity responsible for good fortune, with his birthday also falling on the fifteenth day of the first lunar month. 

Many have likewise called this day the “true” Chinese Valentine’s Day. In older times, women were not allowed out of their houses, but on this night, they would have the opportunity to be with their loved ones, as they can stroll freely and light lanterns. 

It is no wonder that during the Lantern Festival, everyone is enjoined to gather together, promote peace, extend forgiveness and reconciliation, attract good luck, encourage socializing, and uphold freedom.

Festivals and their Impact

Festivals, like the Chinese Lantern Festival, are events that take place at a certain period and last for a brief time. The impact, however, have the farthest reach because of their very diverse yet positive effects. Not only do they promote cultural traditions and heritage, entertainment and festivals have significant consequences on the local real estate industry, in particular, and the property market and economy, in general.

Increased tourism. Festivals often draw crowds far and wide and serve as catalysts for the development of new facilities, regeneration of blighted areas, lease of commercial areas, uplifting of festival sites, and overall increased developmental and consumer spending. Before the holding of these events, many local government units would invest in hard and soft infrastructure projects to prepare them for these festivities, thereby generating both short- and long-term benefits through urban developments and urban renewals in the event areas and environs. 

Place promotion. Not only do festivals attract large numbers of tourists, but they also promote the locality and or region as expanded tourism destination sites. The hosting of festivals naturally increases visitor arrivals throughout the year, as they tend to explore more of what an area, city, or region can offer. These, in turn, can result in the increased attraction of new investments and projects to such places and adjacent districts, thereby allowing premier areas to increase their land values faster.  

Growth and prosperity. The increase in demand for goods and services often gives rise to the development and enhancement of local businesses. In turn, many jobs are created directly and indirectly.  Not only are additional workers needed in new and or expanding industries, but temporary jobs are created close to and during the festival periods, such as in the organization and event set-up, transportation to and from the venue, retailing, and provision of hospitality facilities. In the end, we can expect their localities’ GDP to improve.

Improved quality of life. Festivals provide a platform for entrepreneurs to reach a wider segment of the public through their participation in fairs and exhibits, especially since smaller businesses do not have a broad customer base. Local artisans are introduced to a wider audience, many times increasing their meager revenues and long-term business prospects. Seasonal jobs are expected to sustain the livelihood of the community while boosting personal incomes. Meanwhile, with expected increased spending on food, souvenirs, and entertainment by visitors, local businesses and entrepreneurs can generate better profits that would allow money to be reinjected back into the economy, and ultimately improve the quality of life of many.  

Yuán xiāo jié kuài lè!. Happy Lantern Festival!

References include: “How festivals create a boom in the economy” by Denis John (blogs.oregonstate.edu); “Lantern Festival” (en.m.wikipedia.org); “Lantern Festival” (chinesenewyear.net).

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Henry L. Yap is an Architect, a Fellow of both Environmental Planning and Real Estate Management, and one of the Undersecretaries of the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development.