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2015 Balloon Fiesta economic impact jumps by 51%

Spectators filled the field during the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta on Oct. 11. The economic impact of last year’s Balloon Fiesta, along with numbers of visitors, showed dramatic increases over 2011 when those figures were studied. (Greg Sorber/Albuquerque Journal)

Spectators filled the field during the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta on Oct. 11. The economic impact of last year’s Balloon Fiesta, along with numbers of visitors, showed dramatic increases over 2011 when those figures were studied. (Greg Sorber/Albuquerque Journal)

An independent study shows the economic impact of last year’s Albuquerque

International Balloon Fiesta soared above 2011 numbers, when the last such study was done.

The 2015 event’s economic impact jumped more than 51 percent to $177.44 million and guest visits rose 30 percent to 955,700 compared with 2011.

Of the total economic impact of the nine-day event, $105.31 million was in direct spending, according to the report issued Wednesday by the Garrity Group, which coordinates the publicity and public relations for the annual event.

The report was based on a study conducted by Forward Analytics, a marketing and research firm based in Pittsburgh.

The last economic impact study done in 2011 showed there were 737,466 guest visits to the fiesta, generating a total economic impact of $117 million that included $91 million in direct spending.

The direct economic impact figure is the sum of both visitor spending and AIBF organizational spending. When those “direct” dollars are subsequently re-circulated by successive recipients making purchases from other businesses in the city and county, those dollars are counted as having an “indirect” economic impact, according to the study.

“It’s really important that we do these studies so we know the impact on the community and so that our partners – the city, the county and the state – know as well,” said Jay Czar, Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta board president. “The people in the tourism and hospitality industries also want to know the demographics of who is attending, how many are attending and their spending patterns.”

Spectators filled the field during the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta on Oct. 11. The economic impact of last year's Balloon Fiesta, along with numbers of visitors, showed dramatic increases over 2011 when those figures were studied. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

Spectators filled the field during the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta on Oct. 11. The economic impact of last year’s Balloon Fiesta, along with numbers of visitors, showed dramatic increases over 2011 when those figures were studied. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

As part of the research conducted by Forward Analytics, the organization did in-person interviews with 989 adult attendees, ages 18 and older, during 12 of the 14 Balloon Fiesta events.

According to that study, 43 percent of the guests interviewed attended three or more sessions at fiesta, and one-third of those guests have attended Balloon Fiesta for four or more years. Thirty-three percent of the respondents used Park ‘N Ride to get to the event and 83.6 percent of them said they would do it again.

Non-local Balloon Fiesta guests spent $20.63 million with fiesta artisans, merchandisers and food concessionaires. Individually, guests spent an average of $29 on the fiesta grounds, not counting parking and admission, the study said.

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, mass ascension, Saturday, Oct. 13, 2012, in Albuquerque, N.M.

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, mass ascension, Saturday, Oct. 13, 2012, in Albuquerque, N.M.

The Balloon Fiesta was also an economic boon to state and local governments. Tax revenues generated by the 2015 fiesta are estimated to be $5.79 million for New Mexico, $837,200 for Bernalillo County, and $4.14 million for the city of Albuquerque.

The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is held every October and is the largest gathering of balloons and balloonists in the world. Canon U.S.A. Inc., a leading manufacturer of digital cameras and other imaging equipment, signed on as a presenting sponsor for 2015, 2016 and 2017.

“That’s a strong message because they are a worldwide organization, and to make an investment in the Balloon Fiesta is really about making an investment in our community,” Czar said.

Daisha Valencia, 5, of Albuquerque, rides the zip line during last October's Balloon Fiesta, which earned $177 million in economic impact. (Greg Sorber/Albuquerque Journal)

Daisha Valencia, 5, of Albuquerque, rides the zip line during last October’s Balloon Fiesta, which earned $177 million in economic impact. (Greg Sorber/Albuquerque Journal)

He noted that the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta Inc., the private not-for-profit corporation that runs the event, spent $2.27 million in 2015, of which just more than $2 million was contracted to local businesses. Considering the overall $177 million economic impact of fiesta last year, “the return on the investment is just astounding,” Czar said.

Out-of-town visitors to Balloon Fiesta seem to overwhelmingly have a good experience and return year after year, often bringing family and friends, he said.

“They get exposed to the beauty of our state and the natural attractions. We see them in Old Town and Uptown, Santa Fe and Taos. They visit the pueblos and the museums. The hotels and restaurants are jammed up during this time.”

“This is our Mardi Gras,” he said. “This is our Super Bowl.”

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