THE Bournemouth Air Festival will be back.

The announcement was made at the close of the phenomenal four-day event on Sunday.

The festival attracted more than three quarters of a million people, with an estimated crowd of 380,000 on the seafront and overcliff on Saturday alone - the town's busiest day on record.

Council leader Cllr Stephen Macloughlin told the Daily Echo: "It has been incredible and there's been the most amazing atmosphere day and night.

"We're going to do it in 2009 and if the support is there, we'll make it an annual event."

The dates for next year are Thursday, August 20 to Sunday, August 23.

Seasoned observers say the town has never been as busy or vibrant.

And many from outside the area could not believe it was Bournemouth's first air display, because the organisation was so good.

Head of Tourism Mark Smith said: "The success of the festival makes it the biggest event of its kind in the country.

"We're absolutely delighted because our own expectations have been exceeded massively. I am confident next year will be even bigger."

Festival director Jon Weaver paid tribute to all the organisations and businesses which had worked to pull the event together.

"It has all looked very smooth on the surface but there have been many people working their socks off to make to sure it all happened."

The hospitality industry has been impressed too.

Kevin Wood of Oceana Hotels, which includes the Cumberland, described the weekend as phenomenal.

"We broke all records for occupancy and takings in our hotels and the feedback from tourists and locals was quite incredible."

Alex Carter, managing director of headline sponsor More Buses, added: "It was a leap of faith for us to put our names forward as the lead sponsor but that faith has been more than rewarded."

The council's deputy leader, Cllr John Beesley, said after the vision, commitment and dedication of all those involved, it would be "unthinkable not to be planning enthusiastically for 2009".

Even the display pilots were full of praise for the festival and said they were looking forward to returning next year.

Clearly, they're not the only ones.

  • Should the Festival be an annual event? Vote below editor's choice.