Air Waves has become the third biggest public event in the UK.
The Leisure and Development Committee of the Causeway Coast and Glens Council was last week presented with a post event analysis of Airwaves 2015, before being asked to recommend further development plans for 2016-2017.
Richard Baker, Council’sDirector of Leisure and Development told the committee that the first show, previously known as the Northern Ireland International Air Show (NIIA), took place in 1992.However, by 2012 there was a strong consensus that the event was weak and tired, lacked commerciality and most of the crowd did not venture into Portrush.
In February 2014 Council approved plans to reinvent it and appointed a Consultant Airshow Director, Sqn Ldr Paul Sall from RAF Waddington. Council also rebranded the event as ‘Air Waves’ and relocated it to East Strand, thereby making it possible to bring aircraft five times closer to land and attracting audiences ov around 200,000.
Following discussion with some businesses in of Portrush in 2014, they reported an increase in sales of 30% over the weekend with the Adelphi and Ramada Hotel both reported accommodation enquiries for the following year.
There was a range of ground-based family attractions including a play zone, a Motor Village, a vintage aircraft display, sixhelicopters on static display, Star Wars characters and an artisan marketplace.
The event generated over £395,537.33 worth of media exposure with a potential audience reach of 9,085,472.
To help develop the event, the proposed strategy for AirWaves over the next 4 years is to become a multi-site festival event that creates and extends economic benefit throughout the borough; to promote the Council area as the key tourist destination and to use the event as a broader economic driver linked to NI industry.
Mr. Baker said that significant interest has come from the business community with Invest NI already on board which would help develop an education, employment and enterprise dimension.
He added that there were plans to have additional activities and sites to extend the event beyond Portrush to increase visitor dwell time and spend during Air Waves with the involvement of ADS Group representing Northern Ireland’s £1.4bn Aerospace, Defence, Security and Space industry.
The committee were asked to accept two recommendations: the first that Council approve the amended strategy, aims and developments plans for Airwaves 2016 to 2019, and secondly to recommend that Council approve the extension of the Consultant Airshow Director to 2019 on existing terms. The recommendations were agreed by the committee.
UUP councillor William McCandless said: “This is a landmark event and the re-location has invigorated it and increased the footfall.
“I congratulate the council officers for making it the success it is
DUP councillor James McCorkell added: “ Limavady and the Aghanloo area have strong aviation connections and I am heartened to hear thinking about involving other areas.”