The Abbotsford International Airshow brings millions of tourist dollars to the Fraser Valley every year, according to a study conducted by University of the Fraser Valley students.
With more than 85 per cent of air show attendees coming from beyond Abbotsford’s borders, tens of thousands of non-locals spend more than $4 million in the city each year, according to the study, which was presented to council last week.
Local gas stations, restaurants, hotels and shops all reap the rewards, with more than $600,000 spent in each sector. But more could be done to boost visitors’ spending while they are in Abbotsford, according to the authors of the study, which was conducted under the guidance of professor David Dobson.
The authors suggest organizers should target more families, partner with local eateries, and advertise other Abbotsford attractions to convince visitors to do more in the region beyond just attending the air show.
Seventy per cent of air show visitors were male, and four of five were older than 35, according to the study.
“We all love the airs how and it’s great to have these numbers to back up those qualitative impressions that we all have,” Coun. Sandy Blue said. “Airports are internationally recognized as key economic drivers of cities, but it’s what we do with them that makes the difference.”
Airport board member Vali Marling told council that the air show will look at ways to help boost community spending in the future.
“Those are things we have added to our to-do list
Air show organizers also say they are adjusting their plans to try to avoid last year’s traffic jam prior to and during the Friday show.
Last year’s show drew one of the largest crowds in decades thanks to the appearance of the United States Navy Blue Angels flight demonstration squadron. But the Friday evening show saw many stuck in traffic, and the highway was severely congested not only by the air show audience, but by Metro Vancouver residents hitting the highway for the weekend.
To try to avoid that situation, airport president Jim Reith said this year’s star attraction, the US Air Force Thunderbirds, won’t be performing during the Friday twilight show.
“We have a different traffic plan,” Reith told council.
He said organizers are also hoping to encourage many people to carpool or take park-and-ride options. The widening of Mt. Lehman road is also expected to help.