Evaluating the Future of Torbay Airshow

The Red Arrows in Devon

The English Riviera Airshow delighted tens of thousands of spectators over the weekend, showcasing thrilling aerial spectacles against the backdrop of Torbay’s stunning landscapes. However, the leader of Torbay Council has raised concerns about the hefty £250,000 price tag associated with the event, prompting discussions about the feasibility of continuing it in the future. There is a possibility that the council might explore alternative, more affordable options to maintain the momentum of attracting visitors.

Cllr David Thomas, who recently reassumed leadership following the Conservatives’ victory in the council elections, acknowledged the dilemma faced by the council. He shared his thoughts, stating, “Emotionally, it’s hard to argue against organizing such a fantastic event when you witness the overwhelming turnout and the vibrant atmosphere in town. It’s an experience that leaves a positive impact. However, when you look at the financial aspect, £250,000 is an incredibly substantial sum.”

The Torbay Airshow commenced in 2016 and has been an annual highlight, aside from the two-year hiatus caused by the pandemic. Organized by the council with support from the English Riviera BID Company, a prominent events partner, and various commercial sponsors, the airshow has cemented its position on the national airshow calendar. The English Riviera BID Company comprises hotels, tourist attractions, and hospitality businesses, all collaborating to promote tourism and events throughout Torbay.

This year’s airshow featured an exhilarating lineup, encompassing freefall parachutists, vintage warplanes, and aerobatic teams, including the renowned RAF Red Arrows, who graced the skies on both days. Onlookers flocked to Paignton seafront, as well as other prime locations around Torbay, to witness the captivating displays.

Cllr Thomas, who actively participated in the airshow by personally selling programmes along the promenade, expressed his delight with the event, noting, “It has been absolutely fantastic, and we’ve been blessed with exceptional weather. People genuinely want to be here and are thoroughly enjoying themselves.”

For Torbay, hosting events like the airshow plays a pivotal role in attracting visitors. Cllr Thomas emphasized the significance of such occasions, stating, “Events serve as compelling reasons for people to visit Torbay. After all, what could be better than experiencing something truly special?” Nonetheless, the future of the airshow remains uncertain, as financial considerations loom large. The £250,000 cost necessitates a careful evaluation of its sustainability in the current circumstances.

Over the next month, an evaluation will take place to assess the airshow’s impact and its alignment with the council’s objectives of enhancing business opportunities in the bay. Cllr Thomas highlighted the financial commitment borne by the council and its partners, emphasizing the need to ascertain the overall financial landscape. He stated, “If it is feasible to continue, that would be fantastic. However, if we find it untenable, we must explore alternative events that can create a significant impact, albeit at a lower cost.”

As the Torbay Airshow faces this critical juncture, the question of its future remains a topic of great significance. Balancing the desire to maintain an impressive event against the financial realities will ultimately shape the path forward.