Air show not great wing man for St. Albert businesses

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It seems that while the inaugural Edmonton Airshow really took off at the Villeneuve Airport this weekend, its anticipated economic impact to the region crashed and burned for most businesses.

With the potential to draw in 25,000 spectators to the refurbished Sturgeon County airport came the hope that some might stay the night in St. Albert, or at the very least stop for bite, but in talking to local business owners that didn’t seem to be the case.

“Any time you get that amount of people coming into the area – not only St. Albert, we are the chamber for the district as well – people need to buy fuel for their vehicles, they need to stop to eat, maybe some may even get a room if they’re going to stay for the weekend,” said Barry Bailey, chair of the St. Albert Chamber of Commerce in an interview.

While surrounding campgrounds were full last weekend, Ken Warren, manager of the St. Albert Kinsmen RV park said it’s been that way several times this summer.

Warren said that even without the death-defying stunts taking place 20 km down the road, which he knows at least six families staying at the site witnessed, he probably would have had full occupancy anyway.

“I do know we had a lot of people phone in who wanted to stay, but we had to tell them we were full. It’s really difficult to say what the impact was. If we didn’t have the air show would we have been full? I think we might have been because of tournaments and so on,” said Warren.

All three of the local accommodations contacted by the Gazette said they did not see an increase in guests last weekend.

Some hotels actually registered decreases last weekend, though that also had nothing to do with the sky-high acrobatics and everything to do with the drop in oil prices and ensuing layoffs.

Although performers and event staff required approximately 125 hotels stays, festival organizers were limited to larger capacity hotels and St. Albert and Morinville hoteliers lost out to the River Cree Resort and Casino in Enoch.

Restaurants along St. Albert Trail saw a slight increase in the number of patrons last weekend.

Trendy eat and drink establishment Central Social Hall reported bringing in a couple thousand dollars out of the ordinary and Irish pub Celtic Knot also fed a few extra bellies compared to this time last year.

“Summer time is usually the quietest time in my business, because people travel – the older demographics right,” said Billy McBain, owner of Celtic Knot. “We had a little bit of a spike in dinner and lunches for sure.”

Others like Italian bistro Sorrentino’s didn’t notice a difference at all.

Although the Chamber floated around the idea of setting up a booth at the event and handing out coupons to St. Albert businesses as a way to generate some foot traffic, the organization was unable to dedicate a staff member to the operation last weekend.

“But I think that’s something that we’ll seriously look at next year,” said Bailey.

St. Albert council proposed a park and ride be looked into, as a way to both reduce congestion caused and capture new clientele.

Bailey said the Chamber was very supportive of the idea, but questioned whether a suitable site exists in St. Albert.

Event producer Dean Heuman from RWE events said he is still crunching the numbers. He planned to include questions about where spectators stayed and where they stopped to eat in a customer satisfaction survey sent out this week.

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Michelle Ferguson