Has Web Summit delivered for Lisbon?

New figures show that Portugal has not seen the gains it hoped for from hosting event

Web Summit relocated to Lisbon in 2016.

Web Summit relocated to Lisbon in 2016.


Attracting well-known events to a city can be great in terms of raising the area’s profile, but it often comes at a significant cost. Take the Olympics for example, a huge event that has run over budget for every city that has hosted it since 1960.

Research undertaken by economists Victor Matheson and Robert Baade into the benefits of the Olympics, meanwhile, shows that while there are some gains, these are usually few and far between.

“Overwhelmingly, the studies show actual economic impacts that are either near-zero or a fraction of that predicted prior to the event,” they wrote in a paper published in 2016.

So what of another event that, while nowhere near the size of the Olympics, has become a key annual gathering? When Web Summit relocated from Dublin to Lisbon in 2016 there was much lamenting here about the loss of a major tech conference. This was despite the fact it had outgrown the Irish capital.

At this year’s event, Bobby Healy, founder of Irish drone delivery start-up Manna, lamented that Dublin had lost the event. “Web Summit is a giant Irish success story. It’s a pity Portugal Inc gets most of the benefit,” he said.

New official figures reveal that Portugal is indeed benefiting from hosting Web Summit, but by considerably less than it had hoped for. A study found the event has led to an extra €115 million in revenues for the country and €252 million in VAT. Some 6,895 jobs are also believed to have been created as a result of the conference being held in Lisbon.

While these are impressive figures, they are €77.5 million less than what was hoped for in revenues and €196 million less in VAT than originally forecast. In addition, 2,673 fewer jobs were created than anticipated.

Web Summit’s deal with Lisbon is due to run until 2028, so these forecasts might yet come good. Or we may have passed peak Web Summit. Time will tell.

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