Talks on air show future well underway

Talks between the business community and BCP Council to explore the future of Bournemouth Air Festival have been making progress over the last month.

Significant financial pressures on the council means that BCP Council’s Three Towns Alliance leadership must look at new ways of sustainably financing the free event in future.

A decision to form a working group on the event’s future was announced in July.

Since then, representatives from local hoteliers, restauranteurs, event organisers and a range of other partners have met regularly with council officers and BCP Council Cabinet members to explore options.

Leads from the Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) and the Destination Management Board (DMB) for Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole, which acts as a voice for tourism and hospitality in the local economy, are also taking part.

Discussions have focussed on options to make the festival financially sustainable and to ensure it has the right content to attract residents and visitors and support businesses.

Portfolio Holder for Connected Communities and Tourism, Cllr Millie Earl said: “We have had regular meetings with business leads to discuss current issues and to explore future options for the Bournemouth Air Festival, since we announced the working group in July.

“Lots of opportunities are being studied and assessed. We are looking into different ideas to make the festival vibrant and interesting, working with stakeholders and partners to do so.

“We are also exploring ways to make it sustainably funded. In view of the financial pressures on the council and at a time when cost of living pressures continue to affect our everyday services and lives, it is right that we carry out this work and we are working hard with our partners in the community to do so.”

“This is not just a question about the air festival, but what summer activities we want to see along our incredible stretch of coastline and three towns.

“It is about what is going to be best for the people who live here, visit here, work here and invest here.”

Cllr Earl reiterated that the council would announce what next year will look like as soon as was practicable to give the business community both certainty and plenty of time to plan for 24/25.

Currently, there is a £44m shortfall in the 2024-25 council budget and the Bournemouth Air Festival is a major event in the calendar for 2024.

The festival has traditionally always been heavily subsidised by our residents, this year by around £400,000.

Craig Mathie, DMB chair and founder of South Coast Events Forum, said: “I’m pleased to be engaged in the future of the festival and all other events and to have a seat at the table.

“I will be representing business interests throughout and making sure their voice is heard.”

Although there will not be a formal public consultation process, the council will welcome any views from our residents.

A recommendation is hoped to go to Cabinet in October. This year’s festival takes place on August 31-September 3.