Well, as you mentioned, sequestration is the governments forced cutbacks and those have affected all areas of government spending. The military has been forced to slash their budget just like everyone else and part of the fallout is that the military flight teams are grounded. Having explained that, let me say the fallout has been devastating for the industry because it left many shows without their biggest draw. Many were forced to cancel and many of those lost monies that they had already expended. Others, who thought that they could go on with the other talent already booked, experienced a complete shock over the drop in attendance resulting in severe financial loses.
We know from our members that 25% of all air shows were canceled this year due to sequestration. Of those 25%, 50% may never return. That is a serious loss of shows. Some of the shows that went on this year fared even worse. Some had over a 70% reduction in attendance. Several experienced financial loses upwards of several hundred thousand dollars. It is unsustainable.
I think they can. I am sure that it will take looking at the shows entirely differently and making some changes. What this year made clear was that the talent that accompanies the military teams is like the opening act for the Rolling Stones. When the jet teams perform, it’s not nearly as critical which civilian acts the show hires to accompany the military. But it’s a lot more important to get the right mix and the very best talent when the military is not participating. What we as an industry need to figure out is what it is that people will still find exciting and be willing to pay as a headlining act? That is if the military teams no longer perform. It will take a new reality, but I think it can be done.
While it’s true that the public line on the air shows is that they help with recruiting, the fact is that the military pulls their budget from recruiting and therefore must show results and publicly present that front. The fact that the military is shrinking combined with the economic prospects as far as jobs go right now, means that the recruiting numbers are getting met. But another important element here that is not being met is the fact that air shows put the military face to face with the American people. They are the best community relations tools the military has at any time. The size of our military is only 1% of the general population. When you cut off the best PR mechanism it further isolates that 1%.
I am not sure if this will have long term ramifications in the US population if the teams get flying again next year. However I know that it has been embarrassing for us as a nation in other parts of the world. There are over 60 countries world wide that have military air teams. We are the only ones grounded. Add to that the fact that our military budget is larger than the next 12 country’s budget combined, and you see why it doesn’t look good. So not only has the military lost touch with the American public over this, but we have done damage to our image and credibility around the world as well.
If the military does not assure us soon that the teams are returning next year, many shows will be canceled. They cannot afford to sustain those kinds of losses again next year. I am hoping we hear soon one way or the other about the teams returning, because the shows will not be able to wait until December for an answer. Many shows that happen in the early spring are already on the verge of canceling out of budgetary concerns should the military not participate. Sponsors as well are sitting on the fence waiting for answers and guarantees deciding whether or not to sponsor these events in 2014.
Well all I can say is that we as an industry were already committed to a “go” scenario in 2013 and we found ourselves empty handed. That will not happen again.