Balloon Fiesta guest visits down slightly for 2018 event

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More than 886,000 guest visits were recorded for the 47th annual Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, held Oct. 6-14. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

About the same number of people attended the 2018 Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta as did in 2017, according to a report issued Thursday from the Garrity Group, which handles public relations for the event.

There were an estimated 886,037 guest visits during the nine days of the 2018 fiesta, which ran from Oct. 6-14 – a small decrease from the estimated 887,970 guest visits during the 2017 fiesta.

“It was slightly less than last year, but we lost four sessions this year (due to weather) versus two last year,” said fiesta spokesman Tom Garrity. However, the attendance per session was higher this year.

The average attendance for the past five years has been 883,002 and the highest attendance during that time was in 2015 with 955,703, Garrity said.

He pointed out that the numbers are estimates of guest visits, rather than unique individual visits, meaning “if one person attends four sessions, that is counted as four guest-visits.” Complicating the estimate is that “the Balloon Fiesta provides all-session passes that aren’t scanned, so they are factored into the estimate, but there’s no way to tell how many guest visits were made by each person with the pass.”

Other numbers released by the fiesta allow for a comparison of this year’s event with last year’s (in parenthesis):

Total number of regular shape balloons, 567 (571); total number of special shape balloons, 96 (98); total number of registered pilot, primary and additional, 623 (557 primary only); total number of media organizations, 195 (216); total number of registered media representatives 1,099 (978); total number of countries represented 14 (21).

This year’s first place winner of the 2018 balloon flying competitions was Maurice Petrehn of Kansas. The second overall highest score went to Patrick Fogue of Missouri. Third place was awarded to Josep Llado-Costa of Spain.

Economic impact studies of the fiesta are done every two years, with the most recent one done last year. Consequently, there will be no financial reports issued for the 2018 Balloon Fiesta.

Last year’s study showed the fiesta generated $172.98 million in total economic impact. Of that number, $101.75 million was in direct impact and $71.23 million was in indirect impact.

The 2017 Balloon Fiesta also generated nearly $10 million in tax receipts, including $5.71 million for the State of New Mexico, $3.51 million for the City of Albuquerque and $826,735 for Bernalillo County, the study said.

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