Approximately 2 million visitors from outside the United States attend a Broadway show each year, according to The Broadway League’s most recent demographics report. That’s about 15 to 20 percent of ticket buyers. But, “research tells us that many international visitors say attending a Broadway show is part of their itinerary but then they get so busy when they arrive they don’t always get to it,” says Alecia Parker, the Broadway League International Committee Chairperson.
The Broadway League has launched an initiative to push that international interest into ticket sales—a vital piece in maintaining the health of the heart of New York theatre. Parker and her team introduced a campaign to encourage more in-advance purchases for Broadway tickets. “We are working to educate travelers on the many shows that are currently playing and the advantages of buying tickets in advance, including a broader selection of shows (including the most popular) and better choices for seats,” says Parker. Not to mention that buying in advance—for anyone—also helps avoid lines and ticket mark-up fees.
Through social media and digital outreach, The League aims to create global awareness for the offerings of Broadway. “Now more than ever, digital platforms provide the opportunity to connect with people who are searching for New York flights, hotels, and making arrangements in advance,” says Parker. “Why not do the same for Broadway?”
The League is currently testing their strategies in Australia, Toronto, and Germany. “We wanted to begin with two English-speaking territories—one close to the U.S. and one far,” Parker explains. “We also wanted a market where language may be a barrier but there was a vibrant Broadway presence. Germany was a good fit.”
As more theatre appeals to international visitors and Broadway evolves to provide resources for non-English speakers (like closed captioning in multiple languages via a new app), informing these patrons of their options to engage in theatre becomes crucial.
That’s not to say local and domestic visitors are any less important to the health of Broadway. “Fortunately, there is a greater awareness of Broadway across the U.S. than ever before,” Parker says. “We could always be better at attracting domestic travelers—there is room to grow. But the international markets we are targeting are places where the advantages of planning ahead for Broadway are less known and understood.”
With any luck, this push will make Broadway a greater magnet of arts and culture for the international community and maintain the Main Stem’s status as the theatre capitol of the world.
Ruthie Fierberg is the Senior Features Editor of Playbill covering all things theatre and co-hosting the Opening Night Red Carpet livestreams on Playbill's Facebook. Follow her on Twitter @RuthiesATrain, on Instagram @ruthiefierceberg, or via her website.