One of the key elements to creating a festival that people will travel to, involves the use of a “special interest” or niche. Around the world, the use of planes, trains and automobiles as a focus for an event has proven to be a key to success in event tourism. An event like the RAAF air show draws audiences from hundreds and thousands of kilometers away when enthusiasts and fanatics follow their passion from one event to another. The Avalon Airshow in Victoria attracted around 180,000 people in 2011, but this nothing when compared to the some of the bigger airshows in the US.
The EAA AirVenture Oshkosh reportedly attracts up to 500,000 people and over 10,000 aircraft over the 7 days of the event. The ability of “special interest” events, like this one, to attract tourists from overseas is also well documented. In 2002, an Air Atlanta Boeing 747 brought an almost full load of visitors from Iceland to the event.
The same is true for classic cars – where followers of “classic not plastic” admire and showcase their vehicles. Car shows, car racing, rallies and show’n’shine represent one of the largest categories of events in the world. While many of these events are about racing, competitors and spectators agree there is more to participating than competing. When looking deeper into the reasons why people attend these events, it is very much about social identity, having a strong purpose in life, and demonstrating a sometimes lifelong commitment to cars. When asked why participants keep coming back to car events like Wintersun they answer “we just love it” – “we love being around so many people like us”.
Interesting then, with many big events based around cars and planes, why trains don’t get such attention? There are a few like the Thirlmere Festival of Steam in Aus. and the Rock Island Train Festival in Ilinois US.