Struggling businesses devastated over cancellation of Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

Balloon Fiesta

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Local businesses rely on the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta to help them get through the year. With business already slowed by the coronavirus pandemic, they are worried they won’t survive a year without the Balloon Fiesta. Businesses said while they were expecting the Balloon Fiesta to be different in some way this year, they had their fingers crossed that the show would go on.

Balloon Fiesta is a big deal in New Mexico. In fact, the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce argues it is among the top ten events worldwide. “It is the biggest,” La Choco owner Carmen Ortiz said. “It is huge.”

More than 860,000 people visit, 71% of whom travel from out-of-state. Many go to places like Old Town where balloon merchandise fills just about every store. “I am waiting for Balloon Fiesta,” Ortiz said. “Everyone in Old Town is waiting for Balloon Fiesta.”

With this year’s event canceled, many shops are not sure how they will survive. “Maybe small businesses like me disappear,” Ortiz said. “No support, no business, no money.”

Ortiz said her shop is already struggling amid the pandemic. She reopened a month ago, but business is slow. She was looking forward to Balloon Fiesta to help get her through the year as she makes three months’ worth of sales in just ten days. “It is the best season here, and now it is canceled,” Ortiz said. “I am sad. I am really sad.”

Over at the Sandia Peak Tram, general manager Michael Donovan said Fiesta represents 10 to 12 percent of their total business annually. “Between lodging revenue, lost restaurant revenue, and lost Tram revenue, it will be a significant blow to our Albuquerque economy which has a ripple effect to the state’s economy as well,” Donovan said.

The event has an economic impact of more than $186 million. “When you translate that into the negative impact on our small businesses who depend on this event, it is just devastating,” Terri Cole with the Chamber of Commerce said.

Ortiz said without tourists, businesses like hers need the community’s support to make it through. “I am here in Old Town for 20 years, and now is the hardest time for us,” Ortiz said.

Some businesses said they cannot imagine planning for a fall without the Balloon Fiesta as reserves from last year’s event is what helped them through the pandemic. Businesses said the cancellation will affect also their staffing levels this fall. The Chamber of Commerce said it is encouraging every public official to create a policy that will help businesses survive.


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