Study shows economic impact of Great New England Air Show at Westover

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A University of Massachusetts Amherst economic impact study released today estimates that the two-day Great New England Air Show (GNEAS) held at Westover Air Force Base in Chicopee in July 2018 generated $4.3 million in direct and induced local spending. 

The findings confirm increased per-group spending and their impacts on the local economy even though attendance was significantly down; 2018 attendance was estimated to be around 63,475, down from the 375,500 estimated in 2015. 

The study was undertaken to understand the economic impact and to benchmark the findings of the 2008 and 2015 air shows for the Galaxy Community Council, a charitable corporation of veterans, local business people and other citizens who work to support the Westover base. 

The project was completed by the Hospitality and Tourism Management Department of the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst. 

The overall economic significance including respondents’ expenditures both within and outside the region of the air show for 2018 was estimated to be $4.02 million. However, when local attendees were removed, the direct economic expenditures from non-locals was estimated to be $2.67 million and the direct and induced sales multiplier impact overall was estimated to be $4.3 million. This compares to an economic significance in 2015 that was $11.6 million and the local direct economic impact (including the sales multiplier) of $14.9 million. In 2008, economic significance was $8.2 million and the direct economic impact of $12.3 million. 

The 2018 measures included 10 major spending categories with the overall average group expenditure of $193.33 or $62.16 per individual with an average group size of 3.11 individuals. These measures are up considerably from 2015, although the sample for 2018 was much smaller (281 groups in 2018 compared to 522 groups interviewed in 2015). In 2015, the overall group expenditures were $104.56 or $30.05 per person and up from $98 per group or $26 per person in 2008. Locals’ expenditures per group (average group size of 3.36) in 2018 were estimated to be $112.38 per group or $33.45 per person while non-locals’ expenditures (average group size 3.01) were estimated to be $226.34 per group or $75.20 per person. Locals’ expenditures per group in 2015 (average group size of 3.32) were estimated to be $74.19 per group or $22.35 per person while non-locals’ expenditures (average group size 3.52) were estimated to be $118.77 per group or $33.71 per person. 

The distribution of attendees between locals and non-locals remained about the same from 2015 to 2018. In 2018, locals were estimated to account for 30.2 percent of all attendees and non-locals 69.8 percent, and compared to the distribution in 2015 where locals were estimated to account for 29.9 percent of attendees and non-locals totaled 70.1 percent of attendees.

In 2018, within the identification of non-locals two groups were further reviewed and included day trippers (traveled 20 to 99.9 miles one-way and did not stay overnight) and overnight guests (traveled 100 miles one way and stayed overnight in the local area). Of the non-locals in 2018, day trip groups (average group size 2.90) accounted for 54.4 percent of all attendees and overnight guests (average group size 3.50) accounted for 15.3 percent of all attendees. This compared to the 2015 attendees where among non-locals, day trip groups (average group size 3.55) accounted for 58.9 percent of attendees and overnight guests (average group size 3.38) accounted for 13.1 percent of attendees.

In the 2018 GNEAS study, among the non-locals, day trip groups spent on average an estimated $209.24 per group while overnight guests spent an estimated $299.71 per group. Compared to the findings in 2015 GNEAS among the non-locals, day trip groups spent on average an estimated $92.80 per group while overnight guests spent an estimated $224.45 per group. Overall, across most all groups of attendees, the expenditures per groups were up although overall attendance was down significantly. 

Average driving distance traveled one-way by the 2018 attendees was 80.3 miles up from 71.5 miles in the 2015 GNEAS study. 

Overall satisfaction with the event has improved since the 2008 event, although down slightly from 2015 to 2018. In 2018, the overall satisfaction was 80.1 percent of the attendees indicated they were either satisfied or very satisfied and compared to GNEAS 2015 survey at 84 percent. Of the attendees polled, 81.1 percent indicated a high level of certainty to return to an air show in two years, down slightly from 86 percent of attendees in 2015. Improvements in traffic management and comments of the wide array of static group displays were noted as important features for the attendees. Security clearance, lack of variety in aerial jets, lack of modern jets and aerial performances, and vendor pricing continue to be an on-going concern and challenges for the event.

This year’s study also examined in more detail why those who expressed interest in the event, but did not attend. The survey captured 578 groups of the non-attendees who completed detailed information about why they did not attend. Of these individual responding groups, the average distance one-way from Westover was 111.69 miles and 81.1 percent of these groups were non-locals. Seventy-one percent were married and the average age was 51. These individuals were also profiled to understand how they may have been a “missed economic impact opportunity” for the promoters of the event to consider in the future.

This study not only benchmarked and updated the economic impact measures from 2008 and 2015 to 2018, but also examined the use of social media and the creation of shared experiences while at the event. In addition, the studies also explored the attendees’ interest in commercial air service out of the Westover Air Base. These additional studies are still on-going analysis by a team of graduate student researchers at UMass. 

A team of faculty members and graduate students conducted the study using data collected through an online survey sent to a random sample of registered event attendees. The sample consisted of approximately 1,928 responses of which 281 responding groups were assigned to the economic impact assessment study. In addition, 628 responding groups (32.6 percent) did not attend the show for various reasons and their reasons and profiles were also documented. 

The Hospitality and Tourism Management Department is an accredited program housed in the Isenberg School of Management with an enrollment of approximately 541 undergraduates and 12 graduate doctoral students. Students in the graduate program may complete a Ph.D. in Management in the ISOM School with a hospitality concentration.

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