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Balloon Fiesta’s economic impact: $186 million

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal


Dawn Patrol balloons glow as they ready to launch, capturing the silhouettes of visitors to the 2019 Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

The 2019 Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta generated $186.82 million of total economic impact for businesses in the Albuquerque area, according to a survey commissioned by the Balloon Fiesta and conducted by Forward Analytics, a national market research firm.

Of that amount, $109.89 million was in direct spending at local businesses and lodging by the 866,414 guests, 71% of whom traveled from outside New Mexico to experience the 48th annual event, which is also the largest visitor event in the state. Another $76.93 million was in indirect economic impact.

The nine-day Balloon Fiesta also generated a fair chunk of tax dollars for government coffers. An estimated $6.52 million went to the state of New Mexico, $4.09 million to the city of Albuquerque, and $1.44 million to Bernalillo County.

The estimated $109.89 million in direct spending produced an additional $58.99 million in New Mexico’s employment wages supporting 1,482 full-time equivalent employees at an annual salary of $39,811.

“The numbers are very positive,” said Matt Guthrie, president of the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta board of directors. “It’s great for tourism,” he said, pointing to the survey numbers showing 71% of visitors came from out of state.

“This is a destination event, so people come here to not only see the Balloon Fiesta, but also the surrounding area as well.”

Often said to be the most photographed event in the world, an estimated 3.4 billion photo impressions were generated on digital and traditional media during the 2019 fiesta.

The survey, which is done every other year, showed that there were 21,500 more visitors in 2017 than in 2019, but a higher percentage of them in 2019 were out-of-state visitors, who tend to spend more money than locals. On top of that, the per-person spending increased from $150 in 2017 to $157 in 2019.

The 2019 event also included a 70% increase in first-time visitors to Balloon Fiesta, up from 52.4% in 2017. With 14 ballooning sessions available, 70.6% of guests attended two or more sessions and 15.3% attended five or more.

The survey also noted that non-local Balloon Fiesta guests spent about $17.99 million at local restaurants; fiesta attendees spent an average of $31 per person with Balloon Fiesta concessionaires; 53.6% of guests paid for overnight accommodations, either at a hotel, motel, inn or RV facility, resulting in an estimated $41.80 million in local lodging revenue; based on the average per night room cost of $162, overnight accommodations generated $2.51 million in lodgers tax for the Albuquerque area.

In conducting the survey, Forward Analytics fielded on-site interviews with 1,368 adult attendees, age 18 and older, during 14 Balloon Fiesta sessions. A small incentive of an official Balloon Fiesta key chain was provided to survey respondents.

The sample size represents a statistical margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points and a 95% confidence level.

The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is the largest festival of hot air balloons in the world, drawing more than 500 balloons and pilots from across the United States and other countries.

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