Bristol Balloon Fiesta 2024: Schedule shortened due to rising costs to save its future

ITV News' Verity Wishart spoke to organisers about their decision to shorten the fiesta.

The Bristol International Balloon Fiesta will be reduced from four days to three in 2024 due to financial pressures.

Organisers said something "must give" after being hard hit by poor weather, the pandemic, the rising cost of living and supply chain issues in recent years.

The Balloon Fiesta, which has been a part of the city's calendar for nearly five decades, will now run from Friday 9 August until Sunday 11 August at Ashton Court.

It will still include two Night Glow events, which will now take place consecutively on Friday and Saturday evenings.

An economic impact survey carried out last year identified the Balloon Fiesta as the city’s most valuable outdoor event, injecting £22.2 million into Bristol’s economy in 2023 alone.

In a change to previous years, there will be a city-wide celebration in the build-up to the fiesta with hot air balloons popping up in local communities.

Ben Hardy, executive director of the event said he hopes the "revitalised vision" will allow more people to experience the magic of ballooning.

"Fiesta Week allows organisers to reimagine, refocusing on what makes this event so special – the celebration of Bristol and its heritage links to the remarkable world of hot air ballooning," he said.

Snow White Credit: Bristol International Balloon Fiesta

"While the central arena will still set the stage for over 100 hot air balloons to take flight if conditions allow, more attention will be given to the outskirts of the launch field."

It's hoped shortening the event will protect its future.

"By just shrinking the weekend a little bit, it helps us to save quite a significant amount of money to bridge a £100,000 gap we need to close to keep the event free for the people of Bristol and here for years to come," said Ben.

"We've spent a lot of time thinking about do we charge the public to come in, the constitution of the Fiesta when it first started is it's going to be a free event for the people of Bristol and we think it's fair when people are struggling with the cost of living that we keep this free amazing, iconic piece of entertainment and keep it free for everyone who wants to come."

Chief pilot and founder of Bailey's Balloons, Clive Bailey says the event is vital in putting Bristol on the map.

Clive Bailey is Chief pilot & Co-founder of Bailey Balloons

"I always say it's part of the DNA of Bristol isn't it, it's worldwide it goes out worldwide, it's fantastic advertisement for Bristol and it's great for the people of Bristol."

"This year we're doing the community launches as well, and asking the community where they would like those launches to take place.

According to Dan Mills from Visit West, the events industry has been particularly impacted by the pandemic amid rising costs.

"It's really important that events such as the Balloon Fiesta and large scale events continue to evolve, in this case that will ensure that the balloon fiesta is viable and can remain a mainstay for the city for years ahead."

Mass ascents are reliant on ideal weather conditions - which has left attendees and organisers feeling deflated.

Ben told ITV News West Country a third of their revenue comes from car parking which is heavily weather dependent.

"Of course, if we could choose a weekend when we have perfect ballooning weather, we'd be multi-millionaires wouldn't we. It wasn't long ago, in 2015 we flew all seven slots. The weather gods will give us some luck at some point i'm sure."

Further new features are due to be announced in the coming months.