Warbirds Over Wānaka (WOW) has been cancelled in the wake of the New Zealand government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.
The airshow, planned for Easter weekend, was expected to attract 55,000 people over the three days.
The show usually attracts about 3000 overseas visitors, who stay on after the show for several weeks.
Wanaka will lose an estimated $22million of economic activity as a result of the cancellation.
WOW general manager, Ed Taylor, said the decision wasn’t taken lightly.
Organisers had taken into account the travel restrictions announced by the government last weekend and also impending (at the time) restrictions on large public gatherings and made the call based on the safety of participants and airshow visitors alike.
“We have a small but dedicated team, many of them volunteers, who have spent the past two years building up to this event and to have it ripped out from under us at the last minute is tough. But, at all times we have the safety of our participants and visitors at heart and so have to accept we won’t have an airshow this year.
“WOW is a bucket-list event for many international airshow fans and they are just gutted that their trip of a lifetime to come to New Zealand has been called off so late in the piece,” Taylor said.
Organisers were also aware of the many hours of practice that aircraft owners and display pilots had put into perfecting their routines for the airshow.
“The amazing support of the RNZAF, RAAF and USAF whose combined support was going to make this an airshow to remember,” Taylor said.
Warbirds is a major contributor to the Wānaka economy with an estimated $20million economic benefit every airshow and so the effects will be felt well beyond the airshow gates with accommodation, hospitality and other activity providers expected to take a hit this Easter.
Taylor said organisers would work with their sponsors and suppliers to minimise the financial impact on the organisation and then start working towards the next airshow at Easter, 2022.
“We have amazing supporters and some are already pledging their support for 2022. We will be back in two years’ time with a show that will bigger and better than ever,” Taylor said.
Organisers have confirmed all tickets will be refunded in full but have asked ticket holders to wait for a few days while organisers confirm specifics about how people will be able to access refunds.