More people than ever before attended the Atlantic City Airshow in 2012, pumping $42.5 million into the regional economy.
Organizers said those numbers are encouraging as the airshow prepares to break from tradition with a 2013 show that will not feature a major jet team and will be held for the first time in June rather than August.
Following the 2012 show — the first to be held on a Friday rather than a traditional midweek date — Richard Perniciaro, director of Atlantic Cape Community College’s Center for Regional and Business Research, conducted an analysis of the event’s impact.
According to the study completed in late November and released to The Press of Atlantic City this month, even if conservative crowd attendance estimates are used, Atlantic City’s airshow still ranks as one of the largest in the nation.
The study estimates that 908,000 people watched the 2012 airshow. Of that total, a formula estimates that 289,095 people were not from the area and would otherwise not have been in the Atlantic City region on a typical Friday in August. That’s up from the 180,000 people in the region specifically for the 2008 airshow — the last time an economic impact analysis was conducted. That show was held on a Wednesday.
The 289,095 people from outside the area for the 2012 show likely spent about $147 each on food, lodging, entertainment, gambling, transportation and shopping for a total of $42.5 million, according to the study.
“It is clear to anyone that attends the event that the number of attendees is substantial,” the study found. “There are a variety of other benefits of the event. These include improving the image of Atlantic City, focusing attention to the beach and Boardwalk, providing a family-oriented venue for a full day at the shore, and a host of other intangibles that obviously are found to be attractive to tens of thousands of attendees.”
Greater Atlantic City Chamber President Joe Kelly said the chamber, which organizes the show each year, was pleased to see the numbers increase. That means the show has gained a positive reputation over the years, something organizers hope will bring people back for this year’s show even with a lineup that doesn’t include the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, he said.
Neither the Thunderbirds nor the U.S. Navy Blue Angels are scheduled to perform in Atlantic City’s show this year. The U.S. Army Golden Knights parachute team, however, is confirmed, according to the chamber.
“For us, it’s more about the reputation and establishment of the show as it continues to go on. We’re also seeing that a good percentage of people chose to start their weekend early with the show. That’s an important fact as we’re planning for the future,” Kelly said.
This year’s show will be held June 26, a Wednesday. After last year’s show wrapped, organizers said they planned to return the event to a midweek date in an effort to drive additional tourism on a less crowded weekday. Without the Thunderbirds in the lineup for the first time since the show’s modern revival in 2003, Kelly said, the chamber chose the June date in the hope that people may choose to start the July 4 holiday sooner than expected. The show will fall a week before the Fourth of July.
The study shows that traffic through the Pleasantville toll plaza on the Atlantic City Expressway was up about 12 percent over a typical Thursday in August the day before the 2012 show, at 75,089 vehicles. Traffic was also up about 12 percent over a typical Friday in August on the day of last year’s show, with 87,841 vehicles passing through the plaza.
There is no reliable information on how many people were in each vehicle. Data also are unavailable on traffic into the resort from other roadways.
Kelly said what information is available on traffic is encouraging because it shows people are willing to start their weekends early when the airshow is involved. He said the chamber isn’t concerned about attendance in the absence of a featured jet team, but the change in lineup has been factored into how the day will be planned. The show will instead offer many more full demonstrations rather than simple fly-bys from aircraft. Those demonstrations should increase excitement throughout the day, he said.
So far, confirmed acts are full demonstrations by the F-22 Raptor, the U.S. Marine Corps Harrier and the U.S. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet, as well as the Golden Knights.
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