Many cities organize annual local festivals for the positive effects on urban development, although success is far from straightforward. This article reviews a case study of the World Port Days in Rotterdam in order to demonstrate how annual city festivals can contribute to sustainable competitiveness, despite limitations as well. We show how this maritime event—that is jointly organized by the business community, the Port Authority and the City Government—offers benefits for citizens as well as for firms. Our empirical results unveil that the business value of the event includes generation of societal support, image improvement, labor market development and networking, while the value for society refers to education, leisure and to a certain degree to social inclusion. The direct value of the event for business in terms of sales and recruitment is limited, while the long-term effects of educational function deserve further attention. Finally, we provide policy lessons that, when properly contextualized, other cities may help to use annual local festivals as tools for sustainable competitiveness.
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