Finweek English Edition - - COVER -

In con­trast to many other ma­jor sport­ing events, Le Tour – as it is af­fec­tion­ately known – while pri­mar­ily in France, is not ex­clu­sively linked to one host city or area mean­ing that the event, and the as­so­ci­ated so­cial ac­tiv­i­ties built around it, ben­e­fit many dif­fer­ent re­gions as well as coun­tries other than France.

There is pres­tige to host­ing a stage of the Tour. This is one of the rea­sons why there is such fer­vent com­pe­ti­tion among cities and towns who bid to host a stage of the Tour de France. Pres­tige aside, it is the ben­e­fi­cial im­pact to the econ­omy and tourism and the in­tense global me­dia at­ten­tion that are main driv­ers in the bid.

This year, York­shire in the UK paid around £4m (R72.5m) to race or­gan­is­ers ASO to host two stages in their county. By all ac­counts, it was money well spent.

De­scribed by Tour de France race di­rec­tor Chris­tian Prud­homme as the grand­est of Grand Dé­parts (the start) in the 111-year his­tory of the race, Le Tour af­forded spec­ta­tors and TV view­ers alike un­par­al­leled views of fa­mous sights and land­marks while the world’s top cy­clists in the world’s pre­mier cy­cling race sped through the lanes and dales of the York- shire county. The county of York­shire’s an­nual tourism value of £7bn (R126bn) will be sig­nif­i­cantly in­creased af­ter this month where dur­ing the two open­ing stages of the 101st edi­tion of the Tour, 2.6m people lined the route around York­shire. Crowds such as these have been un­ri­valled ex­cept on leg­endary moun­tain stages such as the Tour’s sig­na­ture climb, Alpe d’Huez.

Leading the bid to host a stage in York­shire was Wel­come to York­shire chief ex­ec­u­tive Gary Ver­ity. “I wanted to bring the big­gest, best, free-to-watch sport­ing event to the county to show York­shire to the world. The Tour de France is the great­est ad­vert any­one could wish for. In ad­di­tion to the mil­lions who came to watch the race, stay­ing in lo­cal camp­sites, ho­tels, B&Bs, eat­ing in lo­cal restaurants, the TV im­ages of our stun­ning scenery were beamed across the world. The feed­back on race weekend was im­me­di­ate and ex­tremely pos­i­tive,” he tells Fin­week.

“Host­ing the Grand Dé­part is a great hon­our and some­thing highly fought over. For us, it has al­ways been about the long-term ben­e­fits – not just the mil­lions of people who came from all over the world to watch in per­son, but the bil­lions who watch the race on TV and think, ‘ Wow, I had no idea York­shire was so beau­ti­ful, and then come to visit.’ We’ve al­ready heard of York­shire ho­tels tak­ing book­ings for next year from as far afield as Ja­pan, so it’s clearly worked,” says Ver­ity.

A small army of mostly York­shire res­i­dents and sup­pli­ers was needed to wel­come the mil­lions of vis­i­tors on race day, says Ver­ity. These in­cluded not only the team em­ployed within Wel­come to York­shire, but also 12 000 vol­un­teers and lo­cal au­thor­i­ties. Re­port­edly, an additional £2.5m (R45m) was needed by county York­shire for the day-to-day costs of host­ing the stages, bring­ing the to­tal spend to around £6.5m (R11.7m).

It sounds ex­or­bi­tant but there’s a very good rea­son why Gary Ver­ity was so de­ter­mined to win the bid. The last time Bri­tain hosted a stage of the Tour de France was in 2007, and the South East of the coun­try re­ceived a £88m (R1.5bn) boost to their econ­omy as a re­sult.

This year, that fig­ure is higher for the area of York­shire. “Fig­ures are still com­ing in but we ex­pect the im­me­di­ate eco­nomic ben­e­fit to be in ex­cess of £100m (R1.8bn) for our two days. So, the costs in­volved with host­ing such an event are dwarfed by the long-term eco­nomic ben­e­fits,” says Ver­ity.

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