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Buy Side/Sell Side: Warbirds Over Wanaka’s Ed Taylor

29 Mar 2018  By Contributor

Ed Taylor

On the eve of the 30th anniversary Warbirds Over Wanaka airshow, general manager Ed Taylor talks about how marketing the event – and the resultant crowd – has changed over the years, the economic benefits it brings to the region and the challenges of staging the internationally acclaimed show in a town suffering growing pains.
Warbirds Over Wanaka is a major tourism driver for the Southern Lakes region with upwards of 5,000 international visitors making the trek every two years.
Our biggest market by far is Australia but then we have people from many other countries including the USA, UK, many European countries and from throughout Asia and the Pacific.
The majority of the international visitors do not just come for the airshow – they stay on and visit other attractions such as Queenstown, Fiordland and Mt Cook for example.
The most recent Economic Impact and Market Research Report, following the 2014 event, put the overall economic impact at $21.6m, a 16% increase on the last Airshow to be surveyed in 2010.
That year, including the new Rides Day, 48,239 people attended the Airshow with a resulting 114,000 bed nights in the region.
This is our 30th anniversary airshow and the marketing and distribution of the event has changed dramatically since the first show.
In the early days, a lot of the promotion was through regional newspaper and radio and then word of mouth in the aviation community. Nowadays we have strategic partnerships with a number of media outlets across all platforms print, TV, radio, digital, and billboard for example.
Our audience has also changed over the years. In the early days, the typical Warbirds visitor would have been a male aged around 55 years.
In more recent years we have broadened our appeal and our offer. While we still have many thousands of aviation fans in our audience we have lots of families these days so we now appeal across a much wider demographic.
Because of the long history of our event we are seeing second-generation spectators coming along. I have spoken to many visitors who came as children and have wonderful memories of the event. They’re now married with families and they’re now bringing their children along. This means we are continuing to win new fans, which should ensure the long-term future of the event.
We have many ways to reach our potential audience. We attend a number of other airshows both in New Zealand and in Australia, we put out regular newsletters to our database, we have a WOW Club, we use news releases as an effective tool to also get our message across.
Tickets for WOW Club members go on sale in January of the year previous to the airshow – so approximately 14 months out. We have dedicated airshow fans queuing up to be the first person to buy tickets. We then have steady ticket sales throughout the year. These start to ramp up a couple of months out. Because WOW is subject to weather we still have a sizeable walk up crowd.
We do face challenges with Wanaka Airport growing over the years. Trying to put on a big international event while accommodating growing number of businesses on the airfield is challenging, however, with growth comes more facilities such more paved areas, better runways, and more hangar facilities so there are benefits.
We will start planning our 2020 airshow a matter of weeks after this Easter’s event finishes. In fact, we’ve already got a 2020 file in which we have ideas and plans for the next event, which we didn’t get to this time for whatever reason.

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