Twenty-five years of hot air 

This year marks the 25th anniversary of commercial hot-air ballooning over the City of Melbourne. A little-known fact is that Melbourne was the first city in the world to enjoy this spectacular and gentle adventure activity.

From humble beginnings with a single balloon and a sole operator, the Melbourne ballooning industry now has three world-class tourism operators who together fly more than 20,000 commercial passengers per year. 

The passengers come principally from the city and suburbs, often celebrating special occasions such as birthdays, weddings, anniversaries or corporate team-building exercises. Many come from interstate or overseas, eager to see our beautiful city from a different perspective. 

Balloons provide a unique elevated viewing opportunity (unlike any tower or observation deck) where passengers can take in breathtaking views while floating “lighter than air” above a waking city.

One operator, Picture This Ballooning, started operations in the mid 1990s and has carved out a niche. In addition to flying commercial passenger balloons, it is also internationally recognised as the world leader in special-shape hot-air ballooning, flying unusual balloons that are 10-storey-tall product or brand icon replicas. 

A great example of a special shape is the new OVO balloon, a fully digitally printed giant flying egg produced for Cirque du Soleil. The OVO balloon is currently touring Australia, and Melburnians will be able to see it in January 2013, when the Melbourne season of the new show arrives.

Among the Picture This Ballooning fleet of special shapes are a flying glass of beer for Carlton Draught (the “Pot” Air Balloon), a flying “nudie” character for the nudie juice company and a giant flying house for Liberty Financial. 

■ To see more information about this stunning Melbourne activity, visit www.picturethis.com.au

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