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May 20, 2024
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For many years, the National Business Aircraft Association (NBAA) hosted annual airshows in the United States and worldwide, providing a marketing opportunity for business jet makers, suppliers, and other players who support and enable the industry. After decades of ever-larger shows, the industry is experiencing a pullback in the wake of environmental demonstrations last year.

Gulfstream and Bombardier announced neither company will participate in the European Business Aircraft Conference and Exhibition (EBACE) in Geneva in May 2024. This is the same show that experienced environmental protests in May 2023, during which protesters chained themselves to aircraft at the static display and disrupted events.

Gulfstream did not participate in the NBAA show in Las Vegas in October last year, citing a re-thinking of the marketing effectiveness of participating at these airshows. That perception is growing, as Bombardier has also chosen not to participate in the EBACE show in 2024. That brings up several questions:

  • Are airshows effective for marketing and networking?
  • Are airshows environmentally effective?
  • Did the environmental protestors win with Gulfstream’s and Bombardier’s absence?

Are airshows effective for marketing and networking?

The major benefit of airshows is that they bring all key players together in one location. This enables visitors to compare aircraft, find virtually anyone in the industry they need, and network for follow-up after the show. With tens of thousands of participants, including potential customers, they have traditionally been a source of lead generation for the industry.

With thousands of attendees and only a hundred or two customers following through to purchase aircraft each year, the effectiveness of an air show for finding customers has come into question. Gulfstream and Bombardier compete at the top of the business jet market, with their largest models in the $75 million range. Their market is one-tenth of one percent of the wealthiest individuals and major corporations, whom their marketing people can easily identify and target. Will not be at the airshow hurt?

It does not appear to have slowed Gulfstream, who don’t need to fly airplanes and executives to Europe, entertain potential customers at the show, and can save the high costs of participating in these shows. They will use those savings to target key potential customers.

Are airshows environmentally effective?

This cuts both ways. From a potential or existing customer, an airshow brings the industry together under one roof, enabling multiple meetings with suppliers, MROs, FBOs, engine manufacturers, and OEMs. That is environmentally effective, eliminating multiple trips to various locations and reducing emissions.

For many years, the National Business Aircraft Association (NBAA) hosted annual airshows in the United States and worldwide, providing a marketing opportunity for business jet makers, suppliers, and other players who support and enable the industry. After decades of ever-larger shows, the industry is experiencing a pullback in the wake of environmental demonstrations last year.

author avatar
Ernest Arvai
President AirInsight Group LLC