Sunderland International Airshow draws a serious crowd and from much further afield than the North East. And a senior executive at the city’s largest seaside hotel says it sits as a red letter day in Sunderland’s annual tourism calendar, ranking alongside other big events of the year, such as the Great North Run, for the number of visitors it attracts to Wearside.
Megan Ringer has a front-row seat for the show, as sales manager at the Sunderland Marriott Hotel, and says the aerial spectacular attracts aircraft enthusiasts from around the country (and, she suspects, from overseas).
“On Airshow weekend we know the hotel’s going to be absolutely manic,” she said. “It’s always a full weekend for us and we get people coming from all over the place.
“In terms of our annual calendar, the Airshow ranks on the same level of importance as events like the Great North Run, because it brings the same amount of people to the area – it’s definitely a highlight of our year, and brings great business to the seafront and the city.”
Megan is part of the 80-strong team of staff at the hotel, who find themselves at full stretch as all their 82 rooms have occupants, most of them after a weekend of soaking up the high-flying seaside special.
And for many of their guests, it’s not just a question of booking any old room...
It’s always a full weekend for us and we get people coming from all over the place.Megan Ringer
“We do get a lot of people coming back year after year and wanting specific rooms that they were in last year, because of the view they know they can get from it,” says Megan.
She added that the Airshow also generates other special days, because it is such a spectacular backdrop.
“We’ve had people book weddings and family parties or other personal events to fall on Airshow weekend, because they think it’s a great way to add to their own special day, so that makes things even busier.”
This year, Megan and her colleagues are running an outdoors barbecue during the weekend, and also inviting the crowds inside their seafront bar and restaurant to enjoy the flying displays in the warmth and comfort,with fresh food and drink on tap.
Megan said she feels the Airshow is also helping to raise Sunderland’s profile as a seaside resort – which she feels will be further supported by the promenade improvements currently underway along Seaburn and Roker.
“I think it’s definitely raising Sunderland’s seaside offer and, going forward, there’s the opportunity for people to do things like street cafes and seafront activities and create more things for visitors, and expand even more,” she said.