Today heralds one of the biggest annual events of the year - The Jersey International Air Display. This magnificent spectacle is one of the last free air shows in Europe and features an extraordinary range of aircraft. It is probably the biggest event of the year in Jersey -watched by more people than even the Battle of Flowers and is now so popular that hotels can virtually guarantee to be full on the back of it.
The show costs almost £250,000 to stage and yesterday the organiser of the event, Mike Higgins, announced that there is a £20,000 shortfall in funding this year. Jersey Tourism put in £100,000 towards the event - a big chunk of their £640,000 event budget. It raises the question as to where the rest of the money goes and how wisely it is invested.
Reading the 2006 Visitor Survey, only 1% of visitors stated that the main purpose of their visit was to attend a festival or event. Even when you take secondary purposes into account, it only rises to 6%. The specific question is asked in the survey: 'Was you decision to visit Jersey influenced at all by a wish to attend any festival or event?' Only 1 person in 8 stated that it was - and this figure must be heavily skewed by The Battle of Flowers & the Air Display
Roughly a third of Tourism's event budget goes to support these two main events. So that leaves around £400k for all the rest - from Walking Weeks to Food Festivals, sports events to Jersey Live. There must be over 50 taking place throughout the year. So how many visitors participate in these events and do they really encourage more visitors to the island? Once again the visitor survey suggests very few - only 8% in 2006 indicated that they had attend a festival or event during their stay.
With further budget cuts in the pipeline, Jersey Tourism are going to have to withdraw support for more small-scale events and focus their attention on the big wins. This makes sense as it is the major events that help put Jersey on the map and attract more visitors. Whilst it's nice to have all the others, their pulling power simply does not justify the investment.
In my opinion we need something big in April or May - but what? There have been plenty of ideas in the past focusing on our maritime heritage, the arts or some big sports event. What about bringing a leg of the Red Bull Air Race here? Perfect for St Aubin's Bay. If you've got an idea why not post a comment here?