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Double bill should draw huge crowds

PUBLISHED: 12:30 29 May 2008 | UPDATED: 20:30 05 July 2010

A TOURISM chief has estimated that half a million people could converge on Lowestoft seafront for this year's air festival and powerboat grand prix - if the town is blessed with glorious summer weather.

A TOURISM chief has estimated that half a million people could converge on Lowestoft seafront for this year's air festival and powerboat grand prix - if the town is blessed with glorious summer weather.

Hard-pressed traders, who have suffered because of over-running work on the bascule bridge, will be praying for the sun to come out for the four-day extravaganza at the end of July.

A report commissioned in 2006 estimated that the air show alone was worth a massive £11m to the economy and now the event has been extended and bolstered by two days of Honda powerboat racing, which attracted about 75,000 spectators for its inaugural event last year.

Asa Morrison, Waveney District Council's principal service manager for culture, tourism and sport, said: “The air show and Honda powerboat grand prix are as big as it gets. If we get four good days of weather we could see half a million people come to the seafront.

“The more visitors we get, the higher the value to the town. If the weather is good, people are more likely to spend their money and stay longer.”

The two-day air festival, which is celebrating its 11th year, gets under way on Thursday, July 24, with the world-famous Red Arrows topping the bill again.

Spectators' attention will then move from the sky to the sea when the Honda Formula 4-Stroke Powerboat Championship provides racing thrills and spills over the Saturday and Sunday, July 26 and 27.

“Without the air show the Honda grand prix would be the biggest event of the year,” said Mr Morrison. “Even if we get four bad days of weather, they are still really big events.”

While the free events are a big draw for holidaymakers, the biggest support is from people living in Suffolk and Norfolk, with a previous survey revealing that 80pc of the audience comes from the local area.

“It's important for our residents in terms of having cultural activities on our doorstep,” added Mr Morrison.

The impact of the weather on the air festival was shown last year when 110,000 fewer people turned out compared to the first day of 2006 because of rain.

Better conditions persuaded 170,000 people to visit the seafront for the second day, but the figures were still way down on the combined total of 420,000 who watched the show in 2006.

For more information about the air show, visit www.lowestoftairfestival.co.uk

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