by Marcus Leach
There is no bigger bicycle race in the world than the Tour de France, and this year the opening three stages will be held in England, offering hundreds of businesses and local communities once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to benefit from the race, especially in Yorkshire where the Grand Départ takes place.
Welcome to Yorkshire chief executive Gary Verity has promised the world of cycling 'the greatest Grand Départ in history', and, as teams build towards the event, so do many businesses as they look to play their part in creating, and benefiting, from the history Verity promises.
"Make no bones about it – this is the biggest event that has ever happened in Yorkshire," Simon Brereton, Acting Head of Economic Policy and Sector Development for Leeds City Council, told The Essential Cyclist. "It will bring over two million spectators to the region and an estimated global TV audience of 350 million. This is a massive opportunity for local businesses, and there is a lot of excitement already."
With that in mind it is no surprise that businesses have been urged to be prepared ahead of time, especially given that the economic impact will be seen long before the Tour actually comes to town.
"There have been lots of cyclists out on the route since it was announced, and we are already seeing the start of a cycling tourism legacy," continued Brereton. "Cycle shops tell us that they are already seeing bike sales at three times last year’s level, and a drive (or ride) along the route will show even the most casual observer that local flag, banner, bunting and yellow paint suppliers are already seeing an impact.
"We are doing a full evaluation of the economic impacts of hosting Le Tour, and we expect the boost in sales six months before and after the event to be similar to the amount of extra money spent locally during the race. It is just an estimate at the moment, but we think the overall impact of the three UK stages will be around £100 million, with about £20 million of that being in Leeds itself.
"Our estimates are based on the 2007 Grand Départ in Kent and London, and the crowd estimates that have been done for travel planning purposes. The £100 million breaks into three chunks - £40 million spent over the Tour weekend by spectators, teams and the organisers; £40 million coming from extra sales before and after the event, largely in the visitor economy; and £20 million in additional sales generated by the Grand Départ International Business Festival."
Whilst the financial benefit will be welcomed by the local economy there is also a feeling that the region needs to do more than just fill its pockets. There also needs to be a lasting legacy from the event, especially given that this is a true once in a lifetime opportunity for Yorkshire. So, just as we saw with the 2012 Olympics in London, it is up to Yorkshire to ensure their is a lasting legacy, something that hasn't gone unnoticed, as Brereton explained.
"To make the most of the legacy there has been a special Board set up," he said. "There is lots of effort going into developing cycle tourism, and a really exciting development with the new international race to be held annually in Yorkshire from 2015, which has been agreed between British Cycling, Welcome to Yorkshire and ASO, with involvement from Local authorities in staging the event.
"In Leeds, we have used the Grand Départ to redouble our efforts to make the city cycle friendly. We are doing lots of projects with young people and schools, building a new cycle track to link Leeds and Bradford city centres, and seeking to get more people to cycle more often! For businesses, legacy is all about being open to cyclists, whether as customers or employees! We know that people who cycle regularly are less likely to take sick leave (cyclists take an average of one day less sick leave each year than non-cyclists), so there could be as much benefit in the long run from getting businesses to be more cycle–friendly employers as there will be from the extra sales linked to the Tour."
As with any legacy, time will be the true test. But it seems that every effort has been made to ensure it is a lasting one. In the meantime businesses are all set to reap the financial rewards from what promises to be a fantastic spectacle. Vive Le Tour.
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