ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – We’re two days into the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta and as tourists are visiting Balloon Fiesta Park, businesses in the area are hoping to get a big boost after a pandemic year.
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“It’s like an adventure,” said Jeff Jinnett, who owns La Reforma Brewery located just off San Mateo and Alameda. “We have to be ready for anything that’s thrown at us and be ready to go whenever people want to come in the door. But, definitely, sales are up.”
Jinnett said he’s seen a spike since September 29, when many visitors were first getting into Albuquerque. He said business is actually better than their turnout from the 2019 Balloon Fiesta. He believes that’s because they were a new business back in 2019 and because more people are excited to dine in now after a COVID year.
“We’re doing a lot more business, but we’re doing a lot more business overall because we were a brand new business at that time and we were just building our clientele, now we’re two years into it,” said Jinnett.
Despite La Reforma’s boost, nearby Piñon Coffee House said they’re actually seeing lower numbers from 2019 and even last year when the state was in the thick of the pandemic and Balloon Fiesta was canceled. Staff said a huge reason for that could be because they pushed back their opening by five hours to 11 a.m. to actually avoid some of the traffic headaches that can come with Balloon Fiesta.
“Because of the roads, they close early in the morning so we wouldn’t be able to get to work,” said Felicity Montoya, the Assistant Manager, Piñon Coffee House. “So we were kind, like well, and then also people are at the Balloon Fiesta during those times, so we believe that we would’ve been slower if we didn’t change it.”
Montoya said they might change the hours again to accommodate more Balloon Fiesta visitors, but said either way they are still thrilled to have the international event return as businesses continue to get back on their feet.
“We’re just ready to get life back to normal and the Balloon Fiesta is one step in the right direction for Albuquerque,” said Jinnett.
We did ask Balloon Fiesta officials how attendance has been this first weekend compared to 2019. They told KRQE it’s too early to tell, and they won’t be looking at attendance until after the event is over. They do say it feels consistent with other first weekends.
Back in 2019, more than 866,000 guests visited the nine-day Fiesta. An audit states that it generated almost $90-million in economic return to our area.